Reviews by Max Sebastian
Recently I’ve definitely picked up a taste for suspenseful erotica. I’m not talking about erotic suspense, where a tale of suspense happens to include a lot of sex – suspenseful erotica has to be about the sex, and the sex has to be suspenseful.
These are stories that build slowly with characters taking little steps further in exploring their desires, taking risks and pushing their boundaries, with the most effective ones not only those that really keep those pages flicking on by, but also leave the reader a little breathless as the protagonist takes that next potentially dangerous inch forward in pursuit of exquisite gratification.
There’s something slightly depressing about labeling something as subjective as culture as being for women-only or for men-only, or any particular group for that matter.
Sure, there are certain aspects of certain forms of culture that more women might enjoy than men, or more men might enjoy than women. But to throw up the signs, even if it’s a marketing gimmick, is a little sad and surely a little backward.
The whole concept of ‘Erotica for men’ is as irritating as the label ‘Erotica for women’ has always been for me, though perhaps not quite so laughable as that particular tag on erotica ebooks in a genre that is so massively dominated by women anyway.
It’s exclusionary up front. “Erotica for Women” telling me ‘this isn’t for you, because you have a Y-chromosome’, even if it’s a perfectly good tale of thrilling sex. “Erotica for Men” is telling me: ‘you’re a man, this is what you like’. And also, you’re a man, this is what you are like’.
It’s dreadfully patronising and condescending.
Just give us the blurb, we’ll tell you whether it’s something we might enjoy by buying it or not. (more…)
This is the debut novel by Jeremy Edwards, whose short stories can be found in dozens of erotic anthologies. Sharp, witty and full of excellent chemistry between interesting and often unconventional characters – top notch!
The Blurb: Writer Jacob Hastings is uninspired by his latest assignment: a museum full of hideous rocking horses. But his socks are rocked by Normandie Stephens, a mischievous astronomer who can match his dry wit, quip for quip, and his sexual appetite, frolic for frolic, with energy to spare. Thanks to Jacob’s public relations and the machinations of a feisty and frisky mentor named Kate, an impasse in Normandie’s career promises to blossom into either glory or disaster – with enigmatic photographer Susan and obtuse clubber Brandon along for the wild rocking-horse ride. Between farcical talk show appearances, sensuous threesomes, horny little quickies, sex-drenched romantic getaways, and close calls with utter embarrassment, the pace never lets up in this smart erotic romp.
The Review: This was a lot of fun, with crisp writing and witty characters busily embracing the instant attraction and fizzing chemistry between them with wild abandon, and the comedy coming as fast and free as the heat.
In the suitable setting of San Francisco, a magazine journalist falls for an astronomer who then seems to encourage his attraction and dalliance with almost every other female character they then encounter, usually with her along for the ride as well. The story explores their care-free attitude towards the conventional boundaries of love, and also how their presence in each other’s lives then impacts on each other’s careers with unpredictable and mildy absurd results.
Having already enjoyed a number of Jeremy Edwards’ short stories in various anthologies – and pleased to know I have plenty more to uncover – I had some assurance that this novel would be enjoyable, and was certainly not disappointed. As with his shorts, it was a case of instant engagement with this light-hearted, celebratory romp. The characters are likable and their banter will make you smile, before their rampant libido clicks in, offering sweet sex scenes that are frequent, light, fun rewards for the reader.
Four young people looking for their place in life after college find themselves in an old mansion house with time to play…
Allie has held a brightly burning torch for Wade since college. They were part of a writing group together, and everything about those days with him and their friends Kitty and Cameron fills her with longing. When their former Professor leaves them his rambling mansion in his will, it’s a chance for them to reunite. But there’s more than friendship bubbling beneath the surface. As secrets are revealed and relationships rekindled, the stories get dirtier and the stakes get higher. And now Allie’s realized that she isn’t quite sure who she wants…fun-loving Wade, or quiet, restrained Cameron. Neither have been honest about their feelings, and now they have the chance to act on all of the tales that ignite their most primal desires.
This was a really fun, fairly light sex fantasy about four post-college types spending a short time cooped up together in a lavish mansion, with a deceased former favorite professor providing them a semi-believable pretext to fool around with each other and to some extent “find themselves”. For me, there was a touch too much internal monologue and Dawson’s Creek-style over-analyzing things, but the writing was nicely easy to read and the characters sufficiently enticing to keep things bouncing along, and I’ll certainly be checking out some more by this author.
If the title in any way entices you, then you’ll certainly enjoy this collection of 21 short stories that explores male and female perspectives of cunnilingus, mainly heterosexual with just a splash of girl-on-girl…
The blurb: The primal sense of taking in the essence, taste, smell, and sexy up-closeness of a lover is a powerful aphrodisiac that affects one physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once this special connection is made, the heat of desire, passion, and lust focus before one’s eyes and tie arousal directly to them. Tasting Her explores the ultimate joys of oral sex from a distinctly male point of view.
The Review: This was an exquisite feast of erotic writing, without a single weak story among the collection, providing a range of different perspectives on an often underrated facet of human sexuality that can be so easily misunderstood by both men and women, even in this modern and liberated age.
Readers will quickly know from the title whether it’s for them, and while even the editor reveals an uncertainty over the topic at hand initially within her introduction, the sheer beauty and fever-inducing prose within her anthology must have put paid to that uncertainty, for her presentation is flawless.
Particular favorites of mine among the strong line-up included Craig T Sorenson’s wonderful “Suspension”, Adelaide Clark’s filthy “Happy Hours”, James Drew Dyer’s quirky “Dropping the Hint” and Teresa Noelle Roberts’ preconception-challenging “The Dominance of the Tongue”, but any anthology that starts with a Jeremy Edwards story is holding out a great promise for the rest of the journey, and the other stories certainly don’t disappoint either, including the editor’s own sweetly satisfying “Cunnilingus 101″.
As a collection, it’s educational and enlightening, and as far as the heat factor is concerned, as mouthwatering as it gets for any reader for whom the title alone can provoke that irresistible quickening of the heart beat, and for me it will no doubt be read and re-read again as a true favorite.
The quality varies a little, but there’s some fantastic stories in this collection of 22 tales that explore boundaries in relationships, hinting at the fire that exists in physical desire…
The Blurb: Why should you play hard to get when you can play with fire? The forbidden has never been so appealing as it is in Alison Tyler’s latest collection. In these incendiary stories that explore the taboo side of erotica, couples go about setting their boundaries aflame. Committed to each other without question, they play out their naughtiest fantasies, pushing the limits of sex, lust, and the imagination as far as they can to please each other. Playing it a bit riskier and playing it a bit more daring will send readers and their partners steaming towards the next step in sexual exploration. Featuring new work from ADR Forte, Jolene Hui, Sommer Marsden, Shanna Germain, and others, Playing With Fire delivers enough heat to inspire readers to burn their own erotic bridges.
Review: For the most part I’d say these stories don’t really threaten to veer into ‘taboo’ territory, or at least many don’t seem to explore the boundaries in quite as challenging or dramatic a way as billed.
The quality varied between stories, but there were plenty I really enjoyed, and so I think the collection was well worthwhile overall.
Tales by Jeremy Edwards, Sophia Valenti, P.S.Haven, Kristina Wright and Janine Ashbless were particularly effective.
But, there were some “flash fiction” pieces I thought didn’t add much to the anthology, while some of the stories tried far too hard to be beautiful rather than interesting, lending an intangible, dreamlike quality that ultimately made them ephemeral and sometimes even difficult to follow. Those pieces appeared trying to be poetry without offering the necessary story to go with the attempt at inspiring language, reminding me a little of Sally’s recurring sexual fantasy from the movie “When Harry Met Sally” – “Some faceless guy rips off all your clothes, and that’s the sex fantasy you’ve been having since you were twelve?”
Overall, though, there’s enough real quality here that I’d definitely getting this one if you like heterosexual erotica with the occasional touch of female bisexuality.
This is an irresistible glimpse into erotic desires among couples, specifically focusing on that point in a relationship where one partner opens up to the other about a certain fantasy, kink or even fetish they harbor.
The Blurb: In Sweet Confessions, Violet Blue showcases inspirational “you can do it, too” tales that are perfect bedtime reading for lovers. These outrageously sexy stories break the mold in literary excellence. The lust-inciting fantasies include spanking, exhibitionism, role-playing, three-ways and sensual adventures that will embolden real couples to reach new heights of passion. “Waisted,” by Angela Caperton, is a Cinderella story of corset fetish sex, while Liv Olson’s couple in “All Shaved Up” take turns daring each other to smooth down and go further. “The Female Gaze” by Rachel Kramer Bussel is a showstopper of sexual confession and romantic lust and risk, and Alison Tyler’s nooner in “Counterpane” proves just how exciting the familiar can be when you fully unleash your fantasies. In Violet Blue’s own words, “The stories I’ve chosen are explicit, well thought-out, cleverly crafted and arousing as hell. Trust me. I tried it all at home.”
The Review: This collection of beautifully written stories explores a variety of common sexual fantasies among couples, with each story generally taking the form of a person revealing to his or her partner their particular secret kink or fetish, with their partner then helping them to fulfill their heart’s desire.
There’s a strong message in the anthology regarding the importance of sexual communication within a couple, that taking a risk and opening up to your partner can be well rewarded. There’s a good blend of tales, though there’s a clear female perspective through almost all, with each story believable with likable characters.
Progressing through the collection there’s a fun sense of suspense in trying to predict which fantasy will be exposed in each and how it will be explored. The high-points in the collection will no doubt depend on your particular kinks.
For me, Portia da Costa’s “Silver Screen”, Kay Jaybee’s “Underwear”, Andrea Dale’s “New Day, New Life” and Heidi Champa’s “Smell as Sweet” were favorites, but the others were not far behind. But, with sizzling language and intriguing scenarios, even if you don’t share the fantasy of each story in turn, those pages keep on turning and in some cases you might even gain a fresh understanding for those kinds you don’t share, as well as validation for those that you do.
It’s all relatively gentle and perfect to share with a partner, even as a first step towards truly opening up. There’s probably little here that will really shock, but these stories will certainly raise temperatures and quicken the pulse. Very enjoyable.
A sexy thriller about a female assassin penetrating the defenses of a big businessman in a dangerous but sizzling mission – a fast-paced adventure with plenty of heat along the way…
The Blurb: Her addiction is her weapon…
Angel Monroe’s latest mission brings her to the skyscraper of elusive billionaire David Serra, a man whose aggression in the boardroom is matched by his hedonism in the bedroom.
Can Angel complete her assignment successfully and satisfy the cravings that constantly threaten to overwhelm her?
High Rise is an intense, exciting and graphic erotic thriller that will take your breath away.
The Review: Angel Monroe is a blonde bombshell with the emphasis on bombshell, engaging in a little corporate raiding, assassin-style. She has a professional’s skills, a veteran’s composure, but with an addict’s weakness, in this case for full-on bisexual contact, with this particular episode offering some interesting power play as she attempts her hit, with enough twists to keep the suspense going and the reader gripped.
Andrea Milani has a confident, light and highly readable style, with pace that never lets up. There’s a good splash of glamor to this adventure, sparkling sex with a dash of danger, but none of it gets in the way of the runaway pace that keeps the thrill within this erotic thriller until the very last sentence.
There’s a nice ripple of humor in the interactions of the lead character with her opponents, but thankfully there’s none of the ridiculous sniggering gosh-aren’t-I-naughty self-parody that seems to blight so much erotic fiction.
It reads like a glimpse into a series of episodes, with enough backstory to make this story accessible having not read of the talented Ms Monroe before, without descending into expositional pap that would threaten the pace.
At 10,000 words there’s not too much room for plot complications, it’s a relatively straightforward mission without any kind of long-term mystery to solve or complex villain to reveal, but it certainly whets the appetite for more, and perhaps a full-length adventure.
Huge fun, this comes much recommended.
A woman is reunited with a past crush and given the chance to finally fulfill what always might have been, in a sweet little story from a quality writer…
The Blurb: When Jonathan and Lauren met at University, it should have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Sadly, it wasn’t to be, and Jonathan became ‘the one that got away.’ Years later, at a University reunion, Jonathan shows up unexpectedly throwing Lauren into turmoil. The pair start talking, and soon all the old feelings come back. But will this time be different, or will their mutual affection continue to be unrequited?
The Review: I really enjoy Lucy Felthouse’s writing style – crisp and clean, with a sparkling pace and snappy dialogue, while description remains vibrant without overburdening the eye.
This contemporary story of unrequited love given a second chance offers a suitable glimpse into the backstory of the couple involved, while keeping the story going nicely towards the focus encounter.
It’s not a story to shock or surprise, but provides likable characters whose inevitable rekindling of past unfulfilled desires is sexy and sweet, though perhaps a touch fleeting.
Given the hints into the particular fantasies the narrator has been having about her long-harbored love, the piece feels like a first part of a longer work. But, a satisfying read nevertheless, and well worth the time to appreciate a good writer. I will look out for more from Ms Felthouse.
If you love New York, and reading about hot sex, this collection is for you. Vibrant and sexy, but frequently moving and sometimes awfully bittersweet, these stories have memorable characters from various walks of life that offer a very different guide to their Big Apple.
The Blurb: This city-based series of outstanding erotica stories takes a bite out of the succulent Big Apple. A banquet of seduction, sin, kink and decadence has been specially prepared by top connoisseurs from the American erotica world for the delectation of your imagination. Brand new stories from Thomas S Roche, Michael Hemmingson, Shanna Germain and many other literary talents, are collected here to specifically celebrate and eroticise New York. All brought to you by the editor of the bestselling Mammoth Book of Erotica series. Cities are not just about monuments and museums and iconic places, they are also about people at love and play in unique surroundings.
The Review: This is a wonderful collection of erotic stories from Xcite Books, in which the city naturally plays an integral part, reflected in the very nature of the prose of each tale.
I loved the sprawling unpredictability of each piece, like a foreign film, you never quite know what’s going to happen next, with some tales ambling along detailing mere experiences, while others had twists in the tale and lessons learned along the way.
There’s plenty of darkness here, with hot exciting sex but also bittersweet anguish, haunting nostalgia, and no guarantee of a happy ending.
I particularly enjoyed “The Same Fifty Taxis”, a great love story between a couple meeting only occasionally through the years; “Woman in White”, a sizzling story of obsession; “Sophia in Astoria”, a hauntingly erotic story about a lost friend/lover; and “Cell”, a twisting, surprising story of same-sex experimentation.
Though I’d perhaps give one or two of these stories three or four stars rather than five, the anthology was all wonderfully readable, complex, sophisticated and entertaining, casting a beautifully eclectic look at the grown-up underbelly of this well-loved metropolis, from the eyes of some very different yet engaging characters.
n.b. The publisher seems to have split this collection up into four volumes on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace. This review applies to the full collection.