How do you feel about plot, mystery, revelation and narrative in your erotica?
The answer to that question will tell me whether or not to recommend Andrea at the Center.
If what you’re looking for is a series of scenes with a wide variety of kinks, you’re in luck. Andrea at the Center starts with the erotic content pretty much from step one. It’s also well done, from Andrea’s discovery of her bisexuality, to submissions, dominations, bondage, group scenes, shaving... Well, like I said, it runs through a wide variety of kinks, and as scenes, they’re successful, individually.
The crux of my trouble with Andrea at the Center was two-fold, though. One, my answer to the question of plot, mystery, revelation and narrative is that I love them. I want them in my erotica. I like to have something to figure out – even if really all I’m figuring out is that the heroine will end up with the hero (or whatever permutation I’m reading). I want those miscommunications and depths of character, and I want to see an arc where the character grows.
Andrea at the Center just didn’t quite give me that.
To my point, let me explain the set-up to this story: Andrea is jogging, and is abducted and kidnapped. While she spends a short time teary and begging to be let go and promising not to press charges, it seems to last roughly five minutes or so before she calms down enough to learn she’s been taken to the Center – a castle where people are kidnapped and they learn to be themselves before they’re let go again.
This premise actually had me intrigued. Who would do this? Why Andrea? But Andrea seemed to calm down far too quickly – and indeed, as soon as she gets to her private cell, she’s masturbating in the shower and having a right good orgasm. Because..?
That’s my second problem with Andrea at the Center. Despite the title, I never quite “got” her. She didn’t make a connection to me. Or, rather, I couldn’t connect to her. I never felt like I understood anything about her, what her life was about, or why she loved Michael (she’s engaged to Michael, but I never quite felt like she was all that shook up about not being with him). Lip service is paid, but between the shattering orgasms and throbbing breasts I just never found Andrea’s core.
Again, this isn’t to say there isn’t enjoyment to be had with Andrea at the Center. Her sexual evolution/education/abduction is interesting. Individually, the scenarios are hot and expose Andrea to more and more that she finds arousing, or frightening (or both) and deliver on their promise.
But the whole story of the Center? How it works? Why it’s there? What happened and why Andrea was selected? If that premise is one that you find intriguing – like I did – don’t expect any sort of resolution. That was the biggest let-down of the whole book, and the actual ending paragraphs made me groan out loud in frustration. I don’t need a narrative that explains every wrinkle. I don’t need a story that ties it all up for me in a bow. But I do need something better than what came at the end of Andrea at the Center.
It’s too bad. The premise had such potential. The writing itself is really good. But the narrative just annoyed me too much.
“These are not nice stories,” begins Greta Christina's introduction to her collection Bending. She warns the reader to expect borderline and even total lack of consent, sexual manipulation, degradation, violation, humiliation, “a lot of fucked up shit.” Of course, one isn't completely surprised by this, given the book's deliberately provocative sub-title. Furthermore, I agree with the author's assessment. Some of the activities chronicled here are extreme even for a kink connoisseur like me. Perhaps the most notable example is a scene in the novella, which gives the collection its title, where a woman is fucked in the ass while her Domme repeatedly forces her head into the toilet water. Then there's “Christian Domestic Discipline,” in which playful mutual exploration of spanking as punishment for a wife's “sins” turns into fanatic cruelty. Or “Craig's List,” where a woman advertises for a man to literally abuse her, and finds someone who more than meets her specifications. Or the more subtly disturbing “What She's Not Telling Him:”
Their arrangement is, in theory, completely consensual. Safewords, and limits, and all the usual stuff.
What she's not telling him is that, the moment he orders her in for a punishment, all of that disappears. The moment he tells her that she must be punished – no, even before that, the moment he gets the gleam in his eye that prophecies a punishment – her submission takes over her mind, and her safeword and limits and understanding that she has consented to this are obliterated. What she's not telling him is that, for her, the game of sadistic master and obedient slavegirl is real, and is becoming more real with every passing week.
The thing is, her partner begins to change. He starts as the model dominant, asking for feedback, checking her status, remaining aware of her as a person and a partner in kink. The harder he finds he can push without her resorting to her safeword, though, the more sadistic he becomes. As he administers ever more painful punishments and demands more degrading and disgusting indignities, she becomes her own fantasy: an object with no will, no rights, no recourse. As is characteristic of many of these tales, Ms. Christina allows the reader to decide what happens next.
This book overflows with physical perversity: a woman who gets her kicks opening her pussy for audiences to admire (“Open”); an ex-nun who pays to be chastised in order to expiate her guilt, only to find she feels even more culpable than before (“Penitence as a Perpetual Motion Machine”); a couple of escapees from a religious cult who recreate the savage beatings they received for “purification” (“Deprogramming”); intense breast torture (“Breasts”); being forced into porn (“Dixie's Girl-Toy Gets Spanked for the First Time”; brutal and anonymous butt-fucking in a filthy men's bathroom (“The Rest Stop”). However, the true action in these stories happens in the mind. These stories aren't really about physical sex – they're about obsession, fetishes, psychological games, terrible fantasies, all the secret and shameful notions that run through our minds no matter how safe and sane, rational and independent and centered and mature and careful we pretend to be.
These are wank tales - Greta Christina comes right out and says so – and her attention is on the psychological impact, because that's what turns her on. It's obvious, given their recurring themes, that many of these stories represent personal fantasies. Indeed, this author is a good deal more honest than most in proudly admitting this.
Consider the opening of “This Week:”
Here's what it is this week. A girl, a college student, is being spanked by her college professor. She's young, nineteen or twenty, young enough to be in college, but old enough to have some sexual knowledge. He's older, of course, probably in his forties, dressed casually but with dignity, a trim beard with a hint of gray. She is dress, not in the schoolgir outfit of porn cliché, but in regular modern clothing that merely implies the schoolgirl look: a short skirt with a flare, a simple blouse, white panties. The white panties are important. She is bent over his lap with her skirt pulled up and her panties pulled down, and he is spanking her with his hand.
We have the setup here for this week's masturbatory scenario. Not particularly creative or unusual, but then, fantasies often are not. From here, though, the story takes a different track than the standard, because interspersed with the spankings and the scoldings, the red ass cheeks and the tears, Ms. Christina shows us what both the girl and her professor are thinking and feeling, and that's where the main erotic charge lies.
He's not an idiot. He's an adult, a middle-aged man of the world, and he can see what she wants. He wants it too; she's a lovely girl, she makes him feel powerful and wise, and the thought of bending her over his lap makes his dick twitch. At the same time, he's not an idiot. He knows how much trouble he could get into if he's guessing wrong, or for that matter if he's guessing right.
The tension between lust and responsibility – the awareness of one's own depravity and the fact that this doesn't diminish the fascinated desire – this is the payoff, not the spanking or the fucking or the abuse by itself.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the wonderful story “The Shame Photos.” There's no sex in this tale at all, just a conversation between a porn photographer and a businesswoman at a bar, during which he encourages her to elaborate on her fantasies of sexual shame. That's the key element that excites her, the element she says is lacking in the photos of his that she's seen online. Gradually it becomes clear that she will become his model, that she will let him create the shame photos she describes, that she can't help doing this because this is the essence of who she is and what turns her on. The story ends with him ordering her to go get a hotel room. The fact that she's about to obey him is the most shameful thing of all, and yet, it's just the beginning.
Ms. Christina leaves us to imagine the rest on our own.
Bending is organized into several sections, grouping together tales that the author felt were similar, under the following headings: Bad Ideas; Force, Power and Messed-Up Consent; Unicorns and Rainbows (which contains a single bizarre, hilarious story about a jilted unicorn fucking a rainbow); Religion; Sweet Stuff; and the novella “Bending.” I feel that the book would have been improved by mixing things up and providing more contrast. Some of the tales are seriously dark (as you are warned at the start). It would have provided some relief to alternate these with lighter or more emotionally fulfilling stories (like the delicious “A Live One,” about a surprisingly real encounter between a peep show performer and a customer). Also, some of the categorizations seemed strained. “The Rest Stop,” for example, the only gay story in the collection, is thrown into the religion section, simply because the characters know each other from church.
The novella, though, is in a category by itself.
Dallas, the main character, has a very specific fetish. She dreams of being bent over. What happens next can vary: punishment, fucking, simply being forced to immobility in this vulnerable position. All she really cares about is the sensation of bending, the knowledge of accessibility, the uncertainty about what will come next. She acts this out on her own; she struggles to find sexual partners who will indulge her; she has insatiable craving to be nothing but an ass in the air.
Enter Betsy, an imaginative and horny dominant who fulfills her needs as no one has ever done, and gets a huge kick out of the process. They're perfect together, until Betsy notices Dallas is still restless, and asks her what she wants.
Unfinished. That was it. It dawned on her on the bus ride home. She felt unfinished. Hungry still. Like she'd had a huge meal, with chicken and potatoes and two slices of pie, and was still staring at the pie thinking that a third slice might be nice. And for all her sex-positive, slut-positive, I-am-woman-watch-me-fuck attitude, she still thought her hosts would think she was greedy if she asked for that third piece of pie. And not without reason. Some of her hosts had thought she was greedy for wanting the first one.
Unfazed, Betsy arranges for them to take two weeks off from their jobs, and promises to bring Dallas to the point where even she has had enough. Betsy fulfills her promise, but the psychological results are not what either of them expect.
Bending is just amazing, a brilliant exploration of the inexplicable, irresistible, labile nature of sexual obsession. The earlier stories in this collection impressed me, but this final offering dazzled me with its insight even as it made me squirm (yes, me!) with its filthiness. I wanted to applaud.
The book concludes with an extensive kink resource guide: websites, hotlines and books. This useful material, along with the cautionary introduction, frame the fiction in between, emphasizing the distinction between what happens between your ears and what happens in the real world.
Bending will not please everyone. It might shock some of the readers of Erotica Revealed, and even if you're not shocked, you might not find the stories arousing. Indeed, my kink buttons are a bit different from Greta Christina's. I've never found shame to be a turn-on. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book for its clever language and deep understanding of what makes us perverts tick. Bravo.
I had so much fun reading Buccaneer Island. As Winston Churchill is often accused of saying (though he denied it), the traditions of the British Navy are rum, sodomy, and the lash. Since this story wasn’t about the British Navy, I can only promise you two of those. (Spoiler: This novel didn’t have much rum in it.)
Edmund, third son of an English lord, is caught sucking the stable boy’s cock. His father sends him away to become an overseer at a Louisiana plantation. Everyone on the ship knows why he’s on board. When the teasing gets too much, he attacks a cabin boy. The captain punishes him and Edmund finds out he likes it. Before he can beg the captain to bugger him, a storm comes up and he’s washed overboard.
Edmund comes to on Buccaneer Island in the care of Mathew who lives alone in a shack near the shore. Mathew decides to force feminize Edmund, so he pays a “witch” to give Edmund herbs that will make him grow breasts. He gets women’s clothes for Edmund to wear and expects Edmund to behave as a lass. Edmund seems okay with the situation until he finds out Mathew means to leave him for a while in the care of the witch who has spoken of cutting Edmund. He doesn’t want to lose his balls, so he escapes from Mathew.
During his escape, he’s taken prisoner by a small community of rough men who decide to whip Edmund and have a gangbang. Edmund rather enjoys it, but he again escapes, only to fall into the hands of yet another man who takes him to be the sex slave of a smart, handsome creole pirate. Things happen, then finally Edmund’s past catches up to him and he has to bid a fond farewell to all those men who have humiliated, buggered, and soundly spanked him.So basically this is a BDSM novel with pirates. Some plot points had me rolling my eyes, but when you’re reading a ripping yarn, sometimes you just have to go with it. So I did, and I had a rollicking time.
As a title, Gracefully Aroused is a clever play on words for a collection subtitled The Best of K D Grace. It’s entirely my own fault that it seemed to me at first to be a bit on the tame side as titles go, suggestive of lovely but rather languid sexual encounters. It didn’t take more than a few seconds of reading to realize how wrong I was.
There’s nothing tame or languid about any of these stories. K D Grace packs them with hard-hitting, no-holds-barred sex, and does it with prose that really does turn out to be graceful in a way that requires great skill. Blunt when needed, lyrical when that’s the better choice, paced just right to speed or slow the action, her writing brings her characters (and readers) to the highest pitch of whatever flavor of sensual pleasure she’s serving up.
The way these ten stories are arranged has a pattern of its own. She begins with classic themes that could seem hackneyed, but in her hands they remind us why they became classics in the first place. The first three pieces are from the women’s point of view, and the men the women are viewing are very much of the manly/studly variety, alpha when that’s what works, sensitive as needed, with a few secrets to be revealed. Delicious.
The “Hired Hand” makes the lonely woman farmer reflect:
Working bare-chested might cool him down a bit, but it only made her hotter. She had nearly forgotten the clit- stiffening scent of sweaty maleness, earthy and slightly piquant, a scent that, amid the barnyard animal smells, caused her own animal nature to squirm and stretch and sniff.
The “Personal Trainer” is in complete command of conditioning not only the muscle tone a bikini will display, but every delectable bit even a bikini conceals:
“A few push-ups, maybe some dumbbell flies and your cleavage will give every bloke on the beach wood.”
His gaze is like a magnet pulling my nipples all taut, and I wonder if it’s my cleavage that has given him wood, or if it’s just a permanent condition for the macho
The “Accidental Hitch-Hiker” is in luck with the trucker who rescues her when her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere:
What had been hidden beneath the poncho was not the stereotypical American trucker she had expected. He ran a hand through damp auburn hair in need of a cut. It hung in unruly curls around the soft stubble on his face. There was no beer belly, no good-ole-boy tattoos, no missing teeth. He wore a faded T-shirt stretched over his chest... The overall effect made her pulse race, and the feeling low in her belly was like the deep vibration of the lorry motor, only inside her.
The next two stories take entirely different tacks, both from the viewpoint of the man. In “Productivity,” a high-powered lady efficiency expert schools a nervous CEO in the power of orgasms to increase confidence, not to mention general health. “Flaws” also involves a man learning from a woman, but in this case the woman is a witch who does sex spells for a fee, but draws the line at the much more dangerous love spells. This taste of fantasy is a nice variation, and gives just a hint of some wilder excursions beyond everyday reality that come later in the book.
That’s the first half of the book. The first three stories of the second half are sexual romps of one kind or another, the first two with a tongue-in-cheek attitude (even when the tongue is elsewhere at the same time,) and the third has a humorous slant as well even though the setting is more realistic. “Hard Times At the Nymphomaniac Rehabilitation Center” is a title that pretty much speaks for itself, and the girl in “Confessions” with her fetish for priests could easily have matriculated (and masturbated) at that same institution. The archaeology students in carnal pursuit of their professor in “Excavations” are out for a fun prank as well as a good boinking, and the professor is more than equal to them when it comes to both.
Good as all these are, the last two stories go to a higher level entirely. Intensely sexual and arousing in physical terms, they also stimulate the mind and imagination, not only with their concepts, but with the startlingly vibrant descriptions.
In “Seeing Red,” the main character has a strange power:
One day, Jenny woke and found she could actually see body heat, the body heat that showed up in the infrared spectrum in glorious swirls and splashes of colour from burnt orange all the way to spilt-blood black. Watching it was like watching fireworks, subtle living fireworks.
And in the final piece, “Pheromones,” the super power is claimed by the sense of smell rather than sight:
By his scent, Chloe could tell if her landlord had got shagged and if it had been by his wife. Chloe could smell every detail of her flatmate, John’s, sex life. His girlfriend, Kim, was an olfactory layer cake. Deodorant soap and perfume could never completely mask the fact that she worked at a chippie. All those smells fought a losing battle against the tidal pool of scent emanating from between her legs, a scent that was always flash fire urgent.
There are so many passages of brilliant description combined with creative sex scenes in these two stories that I can’t possibly choose just a few, and, in fact, I shouldn’t. This whole collection is varied, balanced, and beautifully—even, yes, gracefully—written, and you shouldn’t miss a word of it, so reading it all yourself is the only way to go.
This is from the opening blurb to Winter Howl:
Renee Chambers, a moderate-level agoraphobe, runs a no-kill dog sanctuary that doubles as a haven for canine shapeshifters. Britt, her best friend who also acts as Renee’s service dog, coaxes an anxious but curious Renee into a romance that has more than a little electricity. With her organisation running smoothly and a girlfriend who loves her, life could be worse.
Then Grant Heath, a rogue werewolf, shows up and turns her safe little world upside down and inside out, with a side of out of control. She knows it’s a terrible idea, but when she’s with him, she feels different from her tightly wound, controlled self—she almost feels normal. He never does anything she doesn’t want, but he also doesn’t care how far he pushes her beyond her agoraphobic limitations.
I’ve got that out of the way early because it’s easier for the writer to explain this plot rather than me stumble through an explanation of what I understood from my reading of this book. Also, there seems to be an awful lot going on here and I didn’t want it to come across as though I was trying to overtell the story in précis form, or be glib about the expansive content.
To be honest, if I’d attempted a story of this magnitude, I think I might have trimmed some of these very ambitious plot threads. A full erotic novel could be worked around the theme of an agoraphobe. Or, a full erotic novel could be worked around the theme of someone working in a dog sanctuary. And it goes without saying that plenty of stories have been written about love triangles and shapeshifting/werewolves.
But that ambition is likely what is fuelling Aurelia T Evans with this title, billed as Book One in the Sanctuary Series. There is a lot of story to tell here and, whilst this is a complete story, Winter Howl is just the opener.
This is an example of the writing from Winter Howl when Renee and Britt are out together.
She was not against the notion of women with women—she just did not know where she fit into the notion of women with women. Sexuality in general was relaxed among her shapeshifters, in part because the issues people had with sex were often not an issue among their canine companions. Hence the red faces and apologies in polite society when Duke tried to mount Spot or when Cinnamon tried to mount Lily. Renee, having been raised around dogs who naturally engaged in sexual activity amongst themselves and shapeshifters who did the same, was not fazed by the theory or practice of sex. She had just never engaged in much more than masturbatory exploration, which had been okay with her, for the most part. The idea of being attracted to someone was an abstraction with very few exceptions in her life, the kiss with Josh being one of them and the attraction that Jake and Britt had for her and each other being another.
The hair stroking did feel good, though. But another part of her was beginning to make her skin hum a little less pleasantly. She felt frozen in place, caught between liking the strokes and disliking the sensation of not having a handle on the moment.
Britt removed the hand, and her placatory grin was a little wry. “Sorry, was I pushing things?”
The ‘no’ caught in Renee’s throat, but she was able to say, “Wasn’t sure what to make of it. I need to go check supplies in the shifters’ barn.”
“Sorry,” Britt said.
“No. Don’t be.” And that she said it meant that it was true.
For my tastes this seems to be more telling than showing. I enjoy writing that presents description and allows me to make up my own mind as to whether or not Character A enjoys the company/ministrations of Character B. That’s not to say that the style of writing I prefer is better to or superior. I’m just saying here that I prefer a less expository narrative style that allows for personal interpretation whilst Aurelia T Evans doesn’t allow scope for ambiguity.
This is a title that touches on many of the most popular themes in contemporary fiction. We have erotica and shapeshifters and the realism of a character struggling to combat a stifling condition such as agoraphobia. On a personal level, this story didn’t work for me. However, I can understand how it would appeal to a lot of readers.
Grant’s arm was around her stomach, but he wasn’t too near her, and she was easily able to slip away, biting back the urge to groan as her body protested. But Grant’s breathing was still even, so she assumed she had not woken him.
And even if she had, Renee thought, Screw it.
She bent over, hissing through her teeth, and pulled out the toiletry bag she had packed. Once she was in the bathroom, she shut the door and turned on the light. As she started the water for a bath, first cold for a while, then hot, she took a cursory look at herself.
If she had not known that the marks on her body had been made during particularly rigorous and sometimes violent sex, she probably would have been even more concerned, but as it was, she was only moderately so. She stood up to look at herself in the mirror. It was even worse that way—there were bite marks all over her body, some of them just bruises, others bordering on broken skin. Bruises where he had held her too hard or where she had hit herself on furniture. Claw marks all down her legs. The place on her arm where she had bitten herself. She thought she should be ashamed of them, and although she was slightly horrified, it was more because of their appearance, not because of what had caused them. At least it was winter, and there would not be much cause for someone to ask about places on her body that they would never get the chance to see.