Friday, August 5, 2011

Like A Butterfly, A Wild Butterfly

I think it's been fairly well documented that I like to read "short."  In fact, it's actually my preferred method for finding erotica writers.  I'll be honest, as much as I love erotica, there is nothing more brain-bleed inducing than poorly done erotic-anything.  Hence, reading short.  It allows me to sample at the buffet, and if I stumble across something that evokes my gag reflex?  Hey, at least I don't have a full plate of it to wade through.

Obsessed: Erotic Romance For Women is edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel and features 19 stories.  With this book only clocking in at 216 pages, plus the forward and introduction?  Yeah, these are super quick reads, but lengthy enough to turn me on (ha!) to some new-to-me writers.

Silent Treatment by Donna George Storey is a reunion story.  The heroine is off on a "silent" retreat.  A weekend of yoga, relaxation, and total silence - when she runs into an old lover.  Did I mention the emphasis on "silent" retreat?  This was an OK story, but I found the lack of disclosure on "why" their relationship fizzled the first time around frustrating.  Grade = C

One Night In Paris by Kayla Perrin finds the personal assistant heroine jetting off to Paris to surprise her hunky boss, a former NFL-er turned venture capitalist.  I've read erotica, romance and suspense by Perrin, and I really think she's "at home" with erotica.  Steamy stuff.  Grade = B

Concubine by Portia Da Costa features a hero with a twisted ankle begging the heroine to tell him a naughty story.  She does - about a concubine and her warrior prince returned from battle.  The story was OK, but what I really wanted more of was the modern-day couple!  Those two were vintage Da Costa - cheeky and fun.  Grade = B-

Love And Demotion by Logan Belle is another secretary/boss offering.  Heroine moonlights as a burlesque performer.  Uh, which is where her hunkalicious boss tracks her down.  Really liked this story a lot - mutual attraction, pent up frustrations, and plenty of sizzle.  Grade = B

Mephisto Waltz by Justine Elyot pairs the heroine up with her former piano teacher, now a famous performer.  This was OK, but not really my speed - namely because the heroine is a virgin and needs to be "awakened."  Yeah, not so much in contemporary settings thanks.  But I did think it was done well, if this happens to be your bag. Grade = C+

Then by Emerald finds the heroine exploring her attraction with another man, with her husband's consent.  This story was a wee bit emotionally uncomfortable, but one aspect I really enjoyed was how open and honest the married couple were with each other.  That was a very nice element to the story.  Grade = B

It's Gotta Be Fate by Jennifer Peters finds our submissive heroine looking to break the mold of a previous relationship disaster.  Wanting to be "on top" for a change, she places a personal ad and gets more than she bargained for.  I'll admit it, I like reading about dominant heroines, and this story worked well for me.  Grade = B

Hooked by Ariel Graham finds our married couple moving into a new place, and the heroine becoming fascinated by a giant hook hanging from their bedroom ceiling.  Gee, why is that there?  Plenty of tension, a solid married couple, my only quibble is Graham doesn't quite give me everything I wanted with the ending.  Grade = B-

Aftershocks by Bella Andre features an almost-divorced couple reuniting when an earthquake traps them in a storage building.  This story really didn't work for me.  Repeat after me: Dominant Does Not Equal Asshole.  I also wanted to bitch-slap the heroine when she said, "I thought I was marrying a man.  I thought I was marrying someone who would give me what I needed."  Seriously, where's a gun when you need one?  Grade = D

Secret Places by Adele Haze is a lovely story about the heroine who teaches her street musician lover to accept himself.  This was a nice surprise, with a sweetness to it that I wasn't expecting.  Grade = B

Loser by Charlotte Stein is about a woman who is boinking a "loser."  No, really.  An odd-job working, living in a filthy run-down trailer, skeevy-looking loser with a capital L.  I'll be honest, this story felt very sleazy, more than a little trashy, and unromantic to boot - but it knocked the wind out of me.  I'm not sure what it says about me (probably nothing good), but I liked it.  A lot.  Maybe because it shocked me?  Maybe because it felt different?  Whatever it was - more please.  Grade = B+

Here In Between by Kristina Wright finds our heroine heading to New York when she gets a flat-tire in the middle of nowhere, very late at night.  The hero rescues her on the side of the road, and takes her to the nearest motel.  This wasn't a poorly written story, and I'm capable of enjoying hot stranger = hot sex stories, but here?  Too-Stupid-To-Live kept running through my brain.  Grade = C

Spellbound by Garnell Wallace finds the heroine traveling to Haiti to film a documentary.  There she meets the hero.  I liked how timely this story was, even if it did skirt the unsavory bits due to word count.  It's also the lushest, most hypnotic story in the bunch.  Very atmospheric.  Grade = B

Raven's Flight by Andrea Dale finds the heroine falling for her hunky new Irish neighbor, who happens to have a wicked tattoo.  This was a solid story, but I felt the author tried to do too much with it.  She should have just given us a small window into the relationship, instead of trying to develop it all the way through to the end by jumping forward in time.  It felt jarring.  Grade = C+

Raindrop and Rooftops by Elizabeth Coldwell features a travel magazine writer heroine checking out a posh new hotel in Manhattan, as well as the owner of said hotel.  This was a great story until I got the part where the hotel provides sex toys in the honeymoon suite.  Major eyeroll.  Also, I understand that the heroine is looking for adventure, but really?  With a total stranger you're going to do that?  Grade = C

Topiary by K.D. Grace is another story I'm not sure I should have liked, but I did anyway (don't judge).  The hero really likes to landscape.  Uh, a lot.  Which is where our heroine comes in.  Seriously, I'm not sure I'm going to look at gardeners the same way ever again.  Oh and that whole dominant shouldn't be shorthand for asshole gripe of mine?   This author gets it right.  Says me.  Grade = B+

I Want To Hold Your Hand by Rachel Kramer Bussel features a hero who has recently lost weight, gotten hunky, gotten more female attention - and his wife is out of sorts over it.  How one partner's weight loss effects the other is an issue you hardly ever see addressed in fiction (or in real life for that matter), and it was a lovely angle to explore here.  Grade = B

Storm Surge by Teresa Noelle Roberts is about two adrenaline junkies who like to do it in extreme weather.  So they're off to Cape Cod just as a tropical storm is bearing down on them.  A little silly for my tastes, but well told and executed.  Grade = C+

Undercover Kink by Louisa Harte is about a heroine who likes wearing really naughty lingerie underneath her conservative clothing.  She's at the store to pick up her latest purchase and the hunky sales clerk shows her to the nearest dressing room.  A great way to end the anthology, steamy, sexy, whoa doggie!  Grade = B+

Finally, a couple of things in closing I'd like to mention.  I'm firmly in the Erotica As Fantasy camp, which means I tend to flip that switch while reading stories of this nature.  Hence, I can roll with No Condom Moments.  For readers who can't roll?  Yeah, this anthology is pretty light in the safe sex arena. 

Also, a word about the "romance" label.  All of these stories do end on a positive note.  They have "happy endings."  However, some of them are pretty vague in that area.  Using the Louisa Harte story as an example - I don't think her heroine and hero are through with each other - but are they riding off into the sunset proclaiming their undying love for each other?  Yeah, not so much. 

So, if you need the condoms, if you need that Let's Get Married And Be Together Forever moment at the end?  Yeah, this ain't your bag baby.  But it was mostly my bag, and I've already jotted down a few authors I must be on the lookout for.  Heck, I've already bought another book by Charlotte Stein.

Easy, thy name is Wendy.

Overall Grade = B


Victoria Janssen said...

Thanks for this! It's so rare to see a review of an erotica anthology that gives specifics on so many of the stories!

Amber (aka BBB) said...

Wow. Go Wendy! Love that you graded all of those stories individually.

Anonymous said...

Excellent review - I really appreciate that you reviewed each story individually. Like you, I treat these as the alternative to reality, so the "no condom moment" doesn't faze me either.

I'll be looking for this one for the to purchase list!

Wendy said...

Victoria & Amber: I went back and forth on that. Finally I decided I wanted to "be fair." Figured every author deserved equal screen time :)

Lost: Some readers really need those moments, and I can appreciate that. For me? It's not an automatic deal-breaker. Although there have been moments were there's been "no condom" and it irritated the heck out of me. Fickle, thy name is Wendy.

Dr J said...

Wendy: I do applaude your follow-through on listing each story and giving us a synopsis of each. I, for one, have never really liked short stories and have avoided anthologies pretty much most of my reading "life." But there are times when they seem to do the trick of giving me lots of satisfaction in short spurts. I tend to be patient with erotic romance--sometimes they start off really bad and can get better, although I, like you, find that if I end up "gagging" too often then it is a DNF with a definite exclamation point! Thanks for the really insightful review.

JamiSings said...

Long as it all involves consenting adults and no children, animals or dead bodies the only deal breakers for me is anal sex or any sort of anal penetration - not even "just a finger." I just can't do it. That's why I can read F/F stuff, but not M/M or M/M/F.

So the question is - is there any anal? Otherwise I'll read it. That is, if it's in the library system. (We do have some of this stuff, right? It can't all be the HQ and Inspirational stuff.)

Joanna Chambers aka Tumperkin said...

Really like Charlotte Stein. There is something about her books that feels like a really real connection. You should try Past Pleasures - it's very fun and funny with heart too.

Wendy said...

Dr. J: More than any other sub genre, I think erotic romance is a real potential mine-field for readers. There's some great stuff out there, but uh....also quite a bit of "not so great" stuff. And of course, a lot of it comes down to personal taste! Which is why I love reading short in this sub genre more than any other.

Jami: This anthology probably wouldn't be a good fit for you then. Not every story has anal, but quite a few of them do. I'd say it's probably 50/50. And OMG - the Raindrops & Rooftops story would push you right over the edge. I don't mind anal scenes - but dang! That story I was like WTFBBQ?!?!

And we do have some erotic-stuff in the system - but not a whole lot. Some. All boils down to review coverage.

Joanna: Ooooh, thanks for the rec! Will definitely look for that one. She did a single-author anthology for Black Lace that I've had on my wish list forever - so that was the one I went with when I placed my last book order.

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

Oooh, I've gone all wobbly now. Have been a fan of this site for yonks, so it's a bit startling to see my name there - and to know you liked my story enough to get one of my books! Thanks so much for reviewing the antho, and for the fab comments. I'll be giddy for the rest of the month, now, and I know the other authors will be, too.

P.S. If you'd like any review copies of any of my books, just let me know at and I'll get them to you no probs.

Lil Sis said...

Hey - set that aside for me with that other YA you found the other day. I could use some quick reads. Oh, and I must read whatever story made you say "WTFBBQ?!?!" :)

Wendy said...

Charlotte: Hey, thanks for stopping by! It's always fun when the lurkers come out to play :)

Lil' Sis: Well in the grand scheme of WTFBBQ in erotic-stuff, this was pretty tame. Just an instance of "Really?! You just met the guy and you're going to let him do THAT to you?!" LOL

JamiSings said...

Wendy, if you ever come across a non-anal erotic and it's in our system, could you just go ahead and put a hold on it for me? In the meantime I think I'm going to ask around and see if anyone knows any that have absolutely no anal or hint of anal.

And preferably ones with covers that won't give away what's in it since my dad is such a prude. He doesn't even like it when I read regular romance.