The theme of Ageless Erotica has a special appeal for me, and the Table of Contents has a high percentage of writers I’ve long admired, so I had high expectations. At the same time, I felt some trepidation as to its general appeal. When Joan Price starts her introduction with “Older folks still enjoy sex—boy do they!” my first reaction was, “Of course! Why would anyone doubt that?” But my next thought, which I’ll bet most of us share if only subconsciously, was, “But, well, how old? Do many people—okay, do I—really want to read erotica about them?” Then I read a few lines further to discover that she’s talking about “erotica by, for, and about women and men ages fifty to eighty-plus.”
FIFTY? Fifty isn’t old! But then I remembered doing a reading of Best Lesbian Erotica in NYC some years ago, and opening my turn by saying that I was there to prove that there’s life after fifty. I certainly knew then that some people, maybe even most people, do think of fifty as old. It’s a truth not generally acknowledged that our perception as to what constitutes old age keeps changing as we get older, always hovering some distance beyond wherever we are now. For that matter, our perception of what constitutes sex may undergo a certain degree of adjustment. But age brings experience, and no lack of imagination. Where there’s a will there are many creative ways, and yes, the will lives on, as intensely for the eighty-pluses as for those young fifty-ish whippersnappers.
I’m glad to report that the work in Ageless Erotica displays a lively variety that rings all the chimes you’d enjoy in any good assortment of erotica, as well as playing some new, ingenious, and ultra-seductive tunes. As with any anthology, some stories appeal more to me than others, and the order in which they appear leads me to think that the editor shares my taste, front-loading the book with some of the real standouts. The middle part, with several exceptions, has several perfectly okay pieces that just don’t have as much of the spark and flow of really good writing. Some of them lean more toward the informative than the seductive, telling more than they show, and after a while there gets to be some inevitable repetition. Toward the end, though, as a good editor should, Price gives us more of the beautifully crafted work that could appear in some of the best anthologies in the genre without being limited to the “ageless” theme, as, indeed, several of them have.
Erobintica leads off with “To Bed”, a sweet and poignant story of love between long-term married lovers that sets a high standard for the similar stories to come.
Dale Chase’s “Dolores Park” gives us a change of pace, where two aging gay men in San Francisco, after lives spent in the atmosphere of the too-prevalent focus on youth and fitness, share a bench by chance in the park and watch the buff boys go by. It begins with; “Nice butt,” says my bench companion, and ends, after the two have found something much deeper together, and are relaxing at peace with each other, with; Then I slide a hand onto his bottom. ‘Nice butt,’ I say. I do love well-rounded story arcs!
If you’re thinking of adding a new fetish to your sex play, Kate Dominic’s “Hand Jobs” may inspire you, unless you’re already an old hand at this one. A woman with arthritic fingers that always feel cold decides to start us both on track for a total glove fetish, which turns out to be a tactile treat and a thoroughly arousing success.
Doug Harrison’s “Smooth and Slippery” gives us a sympathetic and totally frank picture of how an aging man with age’s usual drawbacks maintains his own confidence and his much younger lover’s devotion, knowing the value of experience and expertise. He also broadened my education with detailed instructions on the use of a dick-pump, something of which I’d been only vaguely aware.
Tzaurah Litzky’s “Tony Tempo” is deeply touching, with perhaps the most memorable character of all, who says, I never thought I’d end up like this, in the Crescendo Home for Aged and Indigent Musicians—I, Tony Tempo, once known as the trumpet king of swing. I’m heading towards that last command performance. But he and his trumpet do still have at least one more command performance, thanks to a night nurse who’s old enough to remember when he was famous, and appreciates the man he still is.
There are too many more stories worth mentioning for me to go into as much detail as I’d like to. There’s fine work by Donna George Storey, Bill Noble, DL King (as soon as I saw her title, “Mr. Smith, Ms Jones Will See You Now”, I knew we’d be treated to one very well-seasoned dominatrix), Evvy Lynn (a jaguar of a lover—yum!), Cheyenne Blue, Rae Padilla Francoeur, Johnny Dragona, Erica Manfred (who won my heart with her My answer was a resounding yes, yes, yes, yes. A Molly Bloom of a yes--it’s a James Joyce thing--and Sue Katz. If I didn’t have a deadline I’d happily expound on any of these at length. In fact, as I scan the table of contents again and recall something of each story, I realize that any piece in this book could easily be someone’s favorite, or even mine, if I happened to be in the right mood at the right time.
Good evening, everyone. My name is Lisabet, and I'm a geek.
Myopic as a mole, I started wearing glasses when I was seven, but, unaware of the physical requirements, I still wanted to be an astronaut. In junior high school, I won a state-wide televised science quiz show. In high school, the smartest guy in the class dumped me because he said I made him feel inadequate. For years I made my living designing and writing programs (and fixing mistakes in code written by others). Now I teach a new generation about software, trying to show them its magic – how pure ideas, expressed in a formal symbolism, are transformed into artifacts that change the world.
Shanna Germain and Janine Ashbless might very well have assembled their magnificent collection Geek Love especially for me. With more than 250 pages of erotic tales and artwork, the book celebrates the glories of nerditude in its many guises.
We geeks may not be famous or popular, or even socially accepted, but we're not going to remake ourselves just to fit in. We may prefer books to people upon occasion. We may be obsessed by numbers or machines. We enjoy playing games, both intellectual and carnal, and we're interested not just in reality but in possibility. And although I don't have any objective data to support this claim, my personal experience suggests there's a correlation between geekiness and kinkiness. Certainly the stories in Geek Love could be viewed as evidence for my theory.
The many dimensions of nerdity make Geek Love fabulously diverse, while still providing a general thematic unity.
Kristina Lloyd kicks off the book with “Black Gold,” an ironic tale set in a post-fossil-fuel civilization where coffee is forbidden but BDSM scenarios can be ordered off a menu more complicated than any Starbucks. Despite its hardcore action, the tale has a romantic slant that suggests some things may never change.
I've never had any personal interest in exploring the “furry” subculture, yet for some reason I found “Goodness, Her Tail,” by Camille Alexa, to be one of the most arousing stories in the book. Suzanne's mundane existence as an office girl is just a facade. She's only truly alive at night, when she dons her ears and whiskers and frolics in the park with her furry friends Mowse and Rattatle Pie. A glimpse of her co-worker Mellie's peachy-pink tail turns her world upside down, and may very well turn you on in the process.
Peter A. Smalley's “The Journey of Mary Freder” begins as a steampunk parody. In classic Victorian epistolary style, a brilliant and talented female lab assistant writes in her journal of her eagerness to prove herself to her illustrious mentor - Dr. Sextus Halifax, an expert on pneumatic processes and electrical phenomena “recently returned from a Continental sabbatical with that Teutonic colossus of science Herr Doktor Deitrich von Grossenschaft.” The story takes a darker turn as young Mary becomes obsessed with the well-oiled brass-and-clockwork female automaton that is Dr. Halifax's life work.
In “Raid Night,” by James L. Sutter, a woman's patience with her online-game-obsessed partner finally snaps, and she finds herself taking what she wants from him – to his surprise and ultimate delight.
M. Christian's affecting and insightful story “The Hope of Cinnamon” imagines an extra-dimensional world called Stonewall, where men are free to enjoy life and one another without fear or constraints. Gen is a Helper, dedicated to assisting the Rescued – gay men snatched from the nightmare persecution of Nazi Germany – in their adaptation to Stonewall society. His role requires him to be a mentor, a teacher, and when necessary, a lover. But Bissou, his latest client, has important lessons to teach him in return.
“Electric” by Wendy N. Wagner is a brief, vivid peek into the mind of celibate genius Nikolas Tesla – a universe of passionate connections shot through with lightning.
Michael M. Jones conjures a geeky gal who inherits her crackpot uncle's hopelessly disordered comic books store in “The Secret Life of Ramona Lee.” Irene, a fugitive AI originally developed by the government, offers organizational assistance – incarnated as a curvy, blue-eyed brunette whom Ramona finds difficult to ignore.
“The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Is Extinct,” by Bill Nobel, offers up a trio of bio-geeks: three horny academics crammed together in a bird watching blind seeking some evidence of a rare species. I won't mention the gender of the characters because, as in many of the well-warped tales in this volume, it hardly matters.
Shanna Germain's contribution to the collection is original, dark and haunting. One character in “Saving the World” is a transgendered amputee superhero rock star. The other is a craftsperson, a dominant, a lover, whose gender is never revealed. The action in this tale is hot violence laced with devotion. The language is lyrical, raw, and achingly beautiful:
The band behind her, they've got capes over their jeans and t-shirts. But no cape for her. It gets caught in her heels, she says, but you know it's because it covers too much of her. She likes to show off those hot-damn hips, that fine-as-rain-ass, those missing legs that end in something different every show.
Tonight they're steel filigree from her knees down; leaves and flowers and a hundred tiny metal creatures tucked into the empty spaces. She's got a thing for whimsy wrapped in an enigma tucked into a weapon. Her legs, her feet really, end in six-inch knifed heels that could kill a man. Probably have killed a man. I don't ask most times, because I don't need to know. Sometimes she tells me anyway. And that's when I have to buy a bottle of fine-ass whiskey and walk away from her, go down to the strip where the boys play ball in corner pockets and they're all-too-happy to wield a fist to a face, a paddle to a place where the ass meets the mind.
“Downtime” by Tanya Korval would be at home in many contemporary erotica anthologies, but it fits in well enough here. A couple of young PC techs forced to work late, one a jealous dominant, the other a glutton for punishment, especially when exhibitionism is involved... use your imagination. They do.
“The Pornographer's Assistant” by A.C. Wise is another mesmerizing tale about the word made flesh. A robot amanuensis buried in a desert bunker awaits her long-dead master, whose tales of fleshly excess she used to transcribe. Instead, a desperate, broken girl finds her way to the pornographer's hidden lair and is healed by the power of the pen.
Craig Sorensen's “Opening Juicy Lucy” includes no robots or electronic marvels, just a geeky college guy who receives an unexpected and intimate request from the cheerleader queen he thought barely knew his name. Like most of Craig's stories, this one features complex and believable characters that make it a joy to read.
A.L. Auerbach conjures shades of Cthulhu with a lesbian slant in “A Great Old Time.” Fans of tentacles will not want to miss this story.
“Binary – consisting of, indicating, or involving two” is Preston Avery's light-hearted evocation of horny gal with a head for math. She meets her match in a guy who can turn a computer programming assignment into a love – or lust – letter.
I read “Morphosis” by Jak Koke three times, and I still didn't fully understand it, at least at an intellectual level, but it moved me nevertheless. According to the author's notes, this story sprang to life fully formed from a dream. Given its shifting imagery and emotional nuances, I find this plausible.
Andrea Task contributes “Who Am I This Time?” a definitely sexy power exchange tale influenced by “Choose Your Own Adventure”. The ties to the geek theme are less strong than in some other tales in the collection, but I'm certainly not going to complain about any well-written story featuring a D/s threesome.
“Voyeuristic Beauty” by Elise Hepner puzzled me, mainly because I couldn't see thematic relevance in this re-telling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of an enchanted mirror that watches her over her hundred years of slumber. Nevertheless, I liked the deviations from the classic fairy tale. In this version, Aurora doesn't need to wait for her destined prince to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh.
J.A. Shirley's “Fuck the World” is a lot of fun, a conspiracy caper in which two female scientists posing as call girls infect the world's leaders with a virus intended to alter the course of history.
In “At the Faire,” Andrea Dale celebrates a rather neglected corner of nerdiness, namely historical reenactments and creative anachronism. As someone who has personally experienced the earthy influence of a Renaissance Faire, I strongly identified with her heroine, the lusty Mistress Maggie.
Janine Ashbless, like her co-editor Shanna Germain, slips to the darker side in her contribution “Grinding,” which relates a hapless gamer's encounter with an electronic succubus. I loved her opening:
Time was, when humans guarded their souls. They'd fence them about with prayer and rabbit's feet, with four-leafed clovers kept in a pocket or medallions of the saints. In those days, it was only when they slept, and their souls wandered away from their bodies, that I could find them and feed.
It's so much easier now.
“Command Prompt” by Ed Grabianowski, provides an original take on BDSM and remote control. Harry Markov's “Pages and Playthings” envisions a book that actively alters the consciousness of the reader – and hence reality. “Player Characters” by Lucia Starkey offers new uses for dice. “Ho Pais Kalos” by Molly Tanzer is narrated by a sentient phallus from ancient Greece, who observes and ultimately participates in the unplanned coming together of two young men studying archeology. Alison Winchester's delightful “RJ-45” offers a wonderfully fresh voice, focusing in alternation upon a savvy female “code monkey” and a lowly IT support gal with a fondness for kink. “F-RPG” by Vivienne Ashe explores the multiple identities players build in role playing games, and the truths hidden beneath those choices.
I enjoyed all the tales above, but three stories in the latter part of the book particularly impressed me. Kirsty Logan brilliantly captures the loneliness of modern Tokyo in her gorgeous lesbian tale “The Purpose of Tongues”:
In the electric city of Akihabara, nothing has a taste. There are endless promises: girls dressed as maids offering tea and cream cakes, girls done up like cats offering bowls of flavored milk, girls plastic-wrapped and LED-eyed with lips like strawberries.
Girls, girls. All delicious. All tasteless.
Then there's Jesse Bullington's funny, insightful “Porn Enough at Last,” set in a post-apocalyptic future where people huddle in isolated bunkers, fearful of contamination, poring over censored hentai porn. The hero (or is it heroine? The author very cleverly avoids telling..) has artistic talent and spends his/her time restoring the pixellated dirty parts and selling the results. The creativity and craft in this story made me grin in admiration.
And the final tale in the collection, Sommer Marsden's “Magdalene,” left me close to tears. A genius misfit fashions the perfect robot companion, the ultimate love-doll, and accomplishes more than he knows. Magdalene must hide her feelings from her Sir, even when he decides to “put her to sleep” after getting involved with a human woman.
Normally, when I review an anthology, I'll mention half a dozen of my favorite stories. With Geek Love, I just couldn't choose. While some tales impressed me more than others, the collection as a whole left me with a feeling of awe.
Hence this lengthy review, which has already run to four pages – and I haven't even mentioned the cartoons, drawings, paintings and photos yet. Or the fact that this remarkable volume was funded by donations on Kickstarter, made by people who thought the world really needed some geek love.
I don't have space to say much about the artwork or the exquisite visual design – you'll have to buy the book and see for yourself. However, I did want to mention the extensive authors' and artists' notes that conclude the book. Many were as much fun to read as the stories themselves. I'm always curious to learn where other authors' stories come from. Geek Love allowed me to indulge that voyeuristic tendency.
In the author notes, a number of contributors said that they'd actually written their story years ago. These tales had been submitted and rejected multiple times, judged as just too weird for publication, until Geek Love came along – the perfect home for them. Like all of us nerds, scorned and ridiculed, dismissed as clumsy, queer or overly brainy, they were just waiting for the right audience – people who appreciate intelligence, unconventionality, and of course, sex.
Editor's note: This book is not available on Amazon. If you want to purchase an electric copy, click on the cover and join the site. I do not know how print books may be purchased.
I love the retelling and re-imagination of old tales, and I think I’ve mentioned here at least once that I adore it when someone can take something that’s been pushed almost to the edge of total saturation and turn it sideways. I also love – via this gig at Erotica Revealed – how I get to so often find anthologies that I never would have bumped into otherwise, and likely wouldn’t have picked up for one reason or another (most centrally that in the world of erotica, so often you don’t know what’s out there, let alone where to get it and which title might be worthy of a gamble). I have read so many things in the months – wait, are we at years yet? – I’ve been on board that I likely would have put aside as “not my kink.”
Leather Ever After hits all those points, dead center. These are not the tales that the Brothers Grimm gathered, but they bear resemblance enough to the original stories that you’ll find yourself grinning at where the authors send the characters you’re used to imagining in far more innocent surroundings.
When I say these retellings turn a tale sideways, I mean the stories like “Each Step For Him,” by Lee Harrington, which begins where the Little Mermaid ends, giving her a brother, and envisioning a version of the story where this young merman falls hard for a leather man and faces a similar trail: what must be given up to live on land with the man he loves? The clever twist to the “every step the pain of a thousand knives” and the ultimate scene of the tale left me grinning and tantalized with a view of a community I don’t know well.
I also mean “Hair Like Gold,” by Nalu Kalani, where Rapunzel’s beautiful hair is used to bind and tease, and whose freedom can only be bought through release of a different kind. Cynthia Hamilton likewise takes a staple and kinks it up with “The Mistress and the Pea,” wherein it’s the Prince who is seeking some discomfort, and what happens on the top of the huge pile of mattresses is an exchange of power and submission.
The anthology itself has common fairy tales retold – Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood – alongside some others that are less obvious or less often seen in these types of collections. D.L. King’s revision of “The Seven Swan Princes” was fantastic – nettles have never been used to build such tension, and the trails to restore her beauty at the hands of her goth prince all but cracked aloud. The almost tangential retelling of the Frog Prince in Karen Taylor’s “Iron Henry” is another favourite – cleverly set up, and executed with a rich style. And the gender fluidity of “Cinderfella” – which also has my favourite ending of the whole collection – has put Sossity Chiricuzio dead center on my radar.
And I should mention when I say that it’s anthologies like this that expose me to stories I would have put aside as “not my kink” in the past, I definitely picture “House of Sweets.” – “House of Sweets” has needle play – something that would frankly send me racing from a room in double time. And yet even when faced with something that leaves me personally ready to bolt, Miss Lola Sunshine keeps an erotic edge humming, and every dimple of flesh at the tip of a sharp needle is a moment of pain and pleasure wrapped into one package of torment that still tantalizes. It’s no small thing to accomplish keeping a reader interested when he’s cringing. I can imagine fans of needle play would salivate here.
That’s my overall impression, actually: there will be something in here for everyone, and for those of you with edgier tastes, I think you’ll be even more pleased. Leather, bondage, rubber, the aforementioned needle play, whipping, shoe worship, knife play... The range is quite wide. It’s a rare collection that dares to step a bit further away from the gamut of what could be called mainstream kink (if that’s even a classification I can beg you to consider), but Leather Ever After takes that risk and successfully spins straw into gold.
James had done everything right that evening. The key word she had texted after she finished work, Shattered, had told him what she expected. She’d come home to a house decked in candlelight, to have James remove her coat and heels and store them in the correct places, to devour a sumptuous repast rich with cream and tomato and imbibe the two glasses of sparkling wine James had poured her. Afterward, he’d offered her his arm and brought her upstairs to the bathroom, steamy with hot mist, all white marble and gilded edges and in pride of place the long bathtub with curled, gold lion’s paws. He’d undressed her, and pointedly ignored her nakedness, even as his cock was clearly half-hard through his black jeans, and hadn’t touched her but to help her into the tub.
Bottled and Bound by Jacqueline Brocker
There is an element of power play in all dyadic relationships. Whether it’s between a couple in a committed relationship, an employer and employee or a pet and its owner. Invariably the balance of the power play falls between subtly negotiated boundaries with one participant being dominant and the other being submissive. In Under Her Thumb, as the title suggests, the theme is that of female domination.
Ordinarily, whenever I’m reading and reviewing an anthology of short stories, my first point of call is the foreword. The foreword usually gives me an idea of the mindset behind the anthology and in this one Midori presents a Sartre-esque explanation of the misunderstood dominant feminist.
But I didn’t read the foreword first on this occasion.
In the absence of a foreword I’ll sometimes read the introduction. This one, a courteous welcome from the extremely talented D L King, explains the relationship the anthologist has with this subject matter. It should be noted here that D L King has a personal investment in the specific perspective of the female dominant, establishing her authority as the right person to compile this collection of titillating stories.
But I didn’t read the introduction first on this occasion.
Sometimes I’ll go through the index, identifying names I recognise and trying to weigh the potential intrigue of various titles. This is a solid collection and contains writing from some of my favourite authors including Teresa Noelle Roberts, Rachel Kramer Bussel, Kathleen Bradean and Lisabet Sarai.
But, instead of whiling away my time choosing how to approach this anthology through that method, I picked on the name of an author whom I’d met, but whose fiction I hadn’t previously encountered: Jacqueline Brocker.
Jacqueline Brocker is an Australian writer living in the UK. She is published by Filament Magazine, Every Night Erotica, Freaky Fountain Press (Erotica Apocrypha), and by Ravenous Romance (My First Spanking). I was lucky enough to meet Jacqueline Brocker at Eroticon at the start of March this year. She’s a funny and intelligent person but I hadn’t read any of her material. This was the first time I’d met a writer and then had a chance to read her work afterwards. It’s more common to encounter an author’s work and then (if ever) meet them. I was curious to discover if this would affect my opinion of her writing.
Regina smiled. She gave the nipple a small pinch and twist, and skirted over her ribs and stomach to the sculpted pubic hair. Just before she found her clit, the path diverted to trace a line down her inner thigh. James’s head twitched, and he clasped his hands behind his back. She drew one finger back up, spreading her labia, opening herself so he could see the wet beginnings of her desire. His breathing quickened, and his erection expanded beneath the denim. Regina could have sunk her teeth right into it, if she’d had a mind to.
Bottled and Bound by Jacqueline Brocker
"Bottled and Bound" is the story of a dominant woman and her submissive partner. There are typical themes of power play within the story, echoed by the monarchic overtones of the character names (Regina and James) as well as the familiar tropes of BDSM activity including riding crops, black velvet cords and a cross. As with all the stories in this collection, Brocker’s writing is a combination of efficient storytelling, combined with an eye for the exciting, enticing and erotic.
James’s lips—thin and agile—caressed the length of her body, toe to neck, leaving trails of saliva and burning lust all over her. His fingers stroked her skin as if brushing her hair, never probing or pressing, and while he edged very close, he never touched her cunt, though it was becoming wet and plump and Regina was beginning to pant; he would get into deep trouble if he did so before she said.
Bottled and Bound by Jacqueline Brocker
This is an impressive collection of stories, following an eclectic path through the rituals and ramifications of female domination. From the mutual respect in Andrea Zanin’s story, "Quiet" through to the misandristic atmosphere of Veronica Wilde’s "In the Chill of her Displeasure," this is an anthology that’s worth reading for all those readers who celebrate female domination and for those who simply like well-written fiction.
I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of epic fantasy. Being subjected to ye fakey olde tymey language is like being dragged to the Ren Faire on a bad first date by a guy who insists on wearing full Klingon battle armor. (Not that such a thing ever happened to me…) So I started reading this anthology with some reticence. Thankfully, while I’m sure they will please true fans of epic fantasy quests, overall the stories were a delight to read even for this non-fan.
There aren’t as many stories in this anthology as there are in the typical erotica anthology because introducing a reader to a world with different rules and customs than exist in a contemporary setting takes longer, but that also gives you more time to settle into the story and let it take you away, which is a nice change. Each story takes place in a unique world. And while each involves a quest, the focus is on what happens when two (or more) people find themselves transformed through sex.
Encounter at the Lonely Dragon by Elinor Gray is set before the quest begins for these characters. Former lovers Gavin, a mage, and Ren, a rouge, are reunited after a past quest ended badly. The tavern keeper slyly (but meaning well) tricks the men to share lodgings for the night. Ex-sex may feel right at the time, but in the harsh light of the morning, it’s not so easy for Gavin to shake years of doubt.
I really enjoyed Orin’s Strand by Vivien Jackson. A young seer witch knows what’s at stake if she seizes momentary happiness in this bittersweet but compelling tale of tempting, or perhaps rewriting, fate. Really nicely told.
Paget is a female knight in Paget and the Princess by Kierstin Cherry. Paget has been sworn to protect the princesses’ virtue. That’s no easy task when the princess wants Paget. The leader of the guard tries to ignore the increasingly disheveled states he keeps discovering them in, but can’t when it becomes apparent to everyone what’s going on.
The Place Where Heroes Are Made by Sarah Ellis had some of the same melancholy tone as Orin’s Stand. Heroes stop at Kailie’s tavern for a last warm meal and good bed before heading out on perilous quests. Her family has been seeing off heroes for generations. Now that their land has been ravaged by war, it needs to preserve the bloodlines of those heroes even more. A nervous young hero setting out on his first quest, from which he might not return, is offered comfort and the experienced ministrations of the lady of the house.
In Crystalline Sorcery by Julie Cox, Heid accompanies the elven priestess Samed on a special quest as guard, protector, and something more. Heid’s non-normative body has made it difficult for her to have lovers, so she’s very surprised when Samed suggests they literally make magic together. Imagine, if you will, a sort of magical elven feeldoe…
I was a bit confused by the ending of Andrea Trask’s Flings and Arrows. Perhaps I missed the point of the quest as I was reading, but scanning through the story a second time didn’t make it any clearer, so I wasn’t sure what the ending meant to the ritual. That may not bother other readers but it drove me nuts. The story wasn’t bad, but I was also a bit confused if the ending was supposed to be good or bad because I wasn’t sure what Alleria wanted. She seemed to want whichever man she was with, and that’s fine. It’s even fine to want both. But I couldn’t even figure out if she were sad or happy or terrified at the end. Maybe everyone else will only read it for the sex and be satisfied.