At first glance, the title of this book (Erotika: Bedtime Stories) and the name of the publisher looked vaguely sinister to me, like "Amerika" as used by the counterculture of the 1960s. In its context, this term seemed to suggest that the current United States was a version of Nazi Germany, with KKK-flavored racism. However, none of the stories in this anthology include BDSM scenes representing organized persecution.
So perhaps the alternate spelling of "erotica" and the term "sensorotika" (Sensual erotica? Is there another kind?) were meant to suggest a witty, sophisticated European sensuality, as distinct from the gauche American prudery that springs from fundamentalist Protestantism. However, none of the stories in this collection resemble Les Liaisons Dangereuses or the song "Lili Marlene" or any other cherished expression of European retro-sex.
The title of this book is especially misleading if it is meant to suggest that these stories are excitingly different from ordinary erotica. They are also not excitingly varied. One contributor, P.T. Cielo, has five stories in the book, Gwen Masters has four, Escarlata Cisneros and Ralph Greco Jr. each have two. Altogether, there are only twelve contributors.
This book is notably short on bells and whistles. No information is provided about contributors, and there is no introduction. No editor is named, so the reader is left to guess that every submission got into the book, exactly as written. Not all the page numbers in the table of contents are accurate. Twenty-one brief stories about sex are displayed like peaches in a makeshift fruit stand because there's a market for the stuff.
The better stories in the anthology make good use of a limited word-count. "Love Rain on Me," by the prolific P.T. Cielo, describes a woman's erotic reaction to a storm at night:
"The air was electric. I drove to the freeway and floored it. I felt alive and beautiful. I reached up, pulling the band from my hair. Immediately my hair flew around my face, neck, shoulders and back. I laughed, feeling so good and happy."
After returning home, soaked to the skin, the narrator masturbates in front of a mirror as lightning lights up the room and thunder rumbles overhead. She watches the storm "roll away," then goes to her bed, "knowing that I had been touched, that I had been loved."
Gwen Masters also has a memorable female masturbation story in the collection. In this story, "Passing the Time," Amber consoles herself for the pain of waiting for a promised telephone call from a boyfriend who seems to be losing interest. She happens to notice her little red box, which contains "a variety of adult toys, from vibrators and dildos to pearls to clamps." Her mood changes quickly:
"First she got sad.
Then she got angry.
Then she got busy."
In general, Masters' stories are believable and centered on likeable women who overcome disappointment and get what they want without harming others. The happy endings are a little too predictable for my taste, but the stories are fun to read.
Cielo's "Control" and T.S. Knight's "The Airport" both deal competently with arrogant men who are outwitted by dominating women. "The Airport" is more detailed, complex, and carefully thought-out. It also has a much more drastic outcome for the male narrator who originally steps into a trap by arranging a Dominant/submissive trick while traveling without his fiancee.
Despite some well-written surprises, most of the stories in this book need polishing. In "The Charade" by Sebastian Wallace, a sexy young woman tries to seduce wealthy men by pretending to be in their league. When she meets a suave, handsome stranger, his glance sends her into a fit of purple prose:
"She almost gasped, but somehow prevented losing her composure--at least externally. Deep within her body, a burst of heat ruptured, ignited by his stare of possession. He did not look at her, but within her. And her intense desire for him suddenly overwhelmed her."
"The Professor" by Cullen Dorn is based on a promising although well-worn premise: beautiful, seductive coed awakens the senses of a middle-aged male professor, as she has already done for his married colleague. However, the current professor's epiphany is described in a way that seems guaranteed to kill the reader's interest:
"He did not go out to lunch as was expected that day. Instead he sat at his desk pondering his future. Ironic, how he should now look to a piece of time that had been nonexistent for him. All his life he dwelt in a past that gave him succor. Now he was compelled to realize his permanence in the reality of now, and of the world with all its dynamics and beauty that he must embrace."
Two snappy "lesbian" stories are simply unconvincing because they lack a realistic social background. "The Proposal" by Peter Rosier is essentially a one-line joke in which a female narrator describes her romantic date with "Alex," who proposes marriage. The narrator responds: "My darling Alexandra, of course I'll say yes." Before this point, there is no indication that both characters are women or that they live in a place where same-sex marriage is both legal and socially acceptable.
In "The Fruits of Mark's Confession" by Ralph Greco Jr., a self-described "gay woman" joins her best friend Mark, a submissive heterosexual man, for a masturbation session as he recounts his latest scene with his dominant Mistress. The narrator claims: "It was many a time I fantasized Dorothy getting off on the fact that I succumbed to my lusts, in front of a man, for Christ's sakes!" So why has the narrator never contacted Dorothy directly, or proposed a threesome? If this story is set in an era when the term "gay woman" was current, where is the social climate of intolerance, fear and secrecy in which all "perverts" once had to live? If the narrator is really "gay," where is her social life with other lesbians? This story is certainly imaginative, but even a fantasy needs to work on its own terms.Other stories in this collection seem more like mood-pieces than actual stories, and the style isn't always adequate to establish a mood. Luckily, this slim book would be easy to slip into all sorts of carrying-bags. It could provide light entertainment on the beach or in a tent far from any well-stocked bookstore or library.