Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Faster Pussycat

The folks at Cleis Press were pleased enough with my review for their anthology Obsessed: Erotic Romance for Women that they asked if I wanted to review any of their other offerings.  One title that jumped out at me was Fast Girls: Erotic Stories by Women, once again edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel.  One of the appeals of erotica, for me, is that when it's written by and for women, the heroines are in charge of their own sexual identities.  Even in this day and age, the idea that a woman can be in control of her sexuality, derive pleasure from it, no matter what her personal kinks may be, is rather subversive.  So an anthology about "fast girls" going after what they want?  Yeah, sign me up.

With 20 stories and the collection only clocking in at 192 pages, all of these are rather brief reads - some of which hit the spot, and others that left me feeling decidedly uncomfortable, and not really in a good way.

Temptation by Kayla Perrin is about a recently-divorced heroine who gets her groove back with the studly young college student who does her lawn work.  Yeah, do I need to say anything more?  Not complex by any means, but it sizzles all the same.  Grade = B

Waxing Eloquent by Donna George Storey finds the heroine house-sitting in L.A. for her brother when she spies on the sexy actor neighbor next door.  Wanting an "L.A. experience," the heroine then hits the local salon to get....uh, waxed.  Guess what happens next?  A heroine breaking away and a hero willing to show her a good time.  Grade = B

Five-Minute Porn Star by Jacqueline Applebee is a seriously fun story.  A broken leg has made hubby surly and an argument erupts with his wife, our heroine.  To teach him a lesson, she decides to vamp it up for him, cheesy soft-core porn star style.  I love it when erotica is playful and fun - because life is too short to take sex all that seriously.  Loved this one.  Grade = B+

Winter, Summer by Tristan Taormino was a story that confused me.  The heroine is in Provincetown looking for a little hot girl on girl action.  And naturally, she finds it.  Granted I don't read a ton of f/f erotica, but the way the author writes this, right down to the inclusion of a certain bodily fluid functions just confused me.  Did our heroine hook up with a chick?  Transgender, post-op or otherwise?  A dude?  What?  Color me dense, but I don't get it.  Also, the more of BDSM I read the more I realize it's not my bag baby.  Grade = D

Playing the Market by Angela Capterton is a story that made me uncomfortable.  The heroine has just lost her shirt on Wall Street and needs rent money.  So why not pick up a guy at a bar and uh, exchange services?  I'm an Erotica As Fantasy girl, so "no condoms" usually don't bother me - but whoa doggie, it bothered me here.  A lot.  Especially given the threesome and the way the story ends.  Bonus points for the ending, which was clever, but I hope the heroine stocks up at the local drugstore from now on.  Grade = B-

Panther by Suzanne V. Slate I just found silly.  The heroine checks out a local art exhibit where she gets turned on my sculpture of a panther.  Boyfriend shows up, shenanigans ensue.  Seriously, she gets turned on by looking at a panther?  Of course I don't like shapeshifter books either, so there you go.  Grade = D

Communal by Saskia Walker excels at writing sexy shorts, and this story is more proof of that.  College student overhears two dorm mates getting nasty in the communal shower.  Uh, which turns her on.  So she starts enjoying some "alone time" in said shower, only to have someone overhear her, and join the party.  Again, playful and fun - I'm sold.  Grade = B+

Fireworks by Lolita Lopez finds two newlyweds sneaking away from a July 4th party to make some fireworks of their own.  A married couple enjoying themselves?  The hubby is a cowboy?  Sign me up.  Grade = B

Flash! by Andrea Dale finds our paparazzi heroine taking a break from a location shoot with a fellow photographer.  Naturally, cameras are involved.  Normally cameras in erotica make me squeamish (thank you Internet), but somehow having two photographers in the mix made it OK for me.  Go figure.  Grade = B

Waiting for Beethoven by Susie Hara is another cougar story.  Older heroine who writes erotica gets her groove thang on with younger coworker, a piano player.  This one was OK.  Mostly I had issues with the "tell-y" style in the early goings and then I wasn't entirely sure these two people were really "comfortable" with each other.  Grade = C

Confessions of a Kinky Shopaholic by Jennifer Peters finds our heroine visiting a newly opened sex toy shop, and running her purchases past a guy she meets on the bus.  Again, no condom makes me squirky - but again, a clever ending.  Grade = B-

Let's Dance by D.L. King should be filed under "Wow, totally not my thing," but it certainly fits the bill of "fast girls."  Heroine picks up college boy at bar, takes him back to her place where they get into some kinky suspension play.  Again, clever ending - even if it relies heavily on coincidence.  Grade = B

That Girl by Cherry Bomb is a confessional piece, with the heroine detailing some of what she has done and why.  It's certainly different, and a bit out of the box.  I liked it because it was really quick, and felt like an intermission.  Grade = B-

Oz by Isabelle Gray is another story that I just didn't quite "get" - although I sorta see what the author was shooting for.  Another confessional style piece, the author evokes the Wizard Of Oz (Home, Wicked, Yellow Brick Road etc.) for the heroine spew forth various fantasies.  Meh.  Grade = C

Married Life by Charlotte Stein features another married couple, this time an unsatisfied wife who stumbles across her restrained hubby's dirty little secret.  Naturally, shenanigans ensue.  I'm a sucker for dominant heroines, and that's partly what we have here.  Mostly though we have a heroine who is so dang frustrated she's just not going to take matters lying down anymore.  Preach it sister!  Grade = B

Princess by Elizabeth Coldwell finds our heroine getting a nice surprise on her birthday from her coworkers - the kind of surprise where you get blind-folded and taken for a ride.  This is a story where the reader needs to let go and roll with the fantasy, because in Real Life?  Yeah, sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.  Grade = B

Chasing Danger by Kristina Wright is another Roll With The Fantasy-style story.  Cop heroine and her hunky partner find themselves chasing after a car thief - uh, a car thief that the heroine had a fling with during her younger, more reckless days.  If you're a stickler for how law enforcement is portrayed in fiction?  Yeah, just skip this story altogether.  Your blood pressure will thank me.  But if you're shallow (like me) and just in it for the hotness + uniform?  Yeah.  I mean, in Real Life this chick would get her butt fired (or sued) so fast her head would spin, but again - fantasyGrade = B-

Whore Complex by Rachel Kramer Bussel is a story that didn't work for me on any level.  The heroine plays whore for her man, when he escalates the game by literally passing her off to other partners.  Certainly the whore fantasy has played itself out in other stories in this anthology, but here I didn't feel like the heroine was in control at all.  More like she was under the thumb of the "hero" and had an extremely unhealthy attachment to him.  It really, really didn't work for me, and made me want to take her to the nearest therapist.  Grade = D-

Lessons, Slow and Painful by Tess Danesi  is a story that starts off well enough, but then takes me to a place I just didn't want to go.  Heroine invites boyfriend over for dinner.  When he shows up he discovers her hastily sharpening a knife.  Shenanigans ensue.  OK, there is a knife in this story and there is blood involved.  Yeah, no thanks.  Grade = D

Speed Bump by Tenille Brown is a story that started a little rocky, but picked up steam for me.  Heroine who likes fast motorcycles, a fast life, and has no desire to be tied down, finds her bartender boyfriend going soft after a heart attack has him reevaluating his lifestyle.  A 40+ year old heroine (not something you see every day) who I felt lacked sympathy for the guy she'd been banging for 8 years.  But, naturally, she comes around in the end.  Slowing down doesn't necessarily mean Death To FunGrade = B-

Even though I had a strong negative reaction to four of these stories, there were definitely more hits than misses for me.  Also, while all fiction certainly relies somewhat on "personal taste," that's nowhere more prevalent than in erotica.  What flips one reader's switch may leave someone else cold.  One thing that I know readers feel strongly about is condom usage.  I can normally roll without The Condom Moment, but the lack of safe sex in a couple of these stories really bothered me, and if you're a reader that needs that condom mention?  Yeah, safe sex is spotty at best in this collection.  I would also mention that while most of these stories do end on an upbeat note, outside of the stories featuring married couples, it would strain to classify any of these as strict "erotic romance."

At the end of the day, this was a really strong collection, and great fun to read.  Certainly I didn't care for everything offered at the buffet, but it was a pleasurably dining experience nonetheless.

Overall Grade = B


A Library Girl said...

This part - "Heroine invites boyfriend over for dinner. When he shows up he discovers her hastily sharpening a knife."

combined with this part - "Shenanigans ensue."

makes me go O_o

*Goddess* said...

Maybe this is a dumb question, but I'm curious about something: why is it that the editor always gets the main credit in erotica compilations?
For instance, in the Chicken Soup books, it always says it's by Mark Victor Hansen, blah blah, but erotica always seems to be "edited by..." on the cover.

BTW, what's Lemon Drop's halloween costume going to be? And will there be pics?!

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

Oh, it's such a thrill to see an anthology I'm in here! Thank you for reviewing, Wendy. And for liking another one of my stories! (dignified squee)

Jennifer said...

So, I was just informed over the weekend by two ladies who should know that P-town is not the place to go for hot girl on girl action. I don't remember where in MA it was, but P-town was pretty much boys only, so maybe there was more going on with Winter, Summer than you saw.

nath said...

Sounds like this book had more yay than nay :) and wow, you reviewed them all!! I don't know how you did it :)

Wendy said...

Library Girl: She goes to slice a tomato, encounters dull knife, is sharpening it when hero walks in. And well gee, the knife is now out.... Yeah, really didn't want to go there.

Goddess: I see it in other genres too - mystery being a main culprit. No clue on Lemon Drop's costume! I haven't talked to Lil' Sis about it. But yes, I'm hoping for pictures.

Charlotte: I was shooting for having this review done sooner - but oy! Real Life is crazy right now.

Jennifer: I feel like such a dunce, but yeah - it just didn't compute for me. I go in thinking "girl on girl" - and end up with a mention of male anatomy and male-produced body fluid. Sigh. I should go back and reread that story. Maybe I'm overly sleep-deprived?

Nath: What I liked, I really liked - and what didn't work for me REALLY didn't work for me. But definitely more yay than nay, which is always good with anthologies.

Kristie (J) said...

"heroine who gets her groove back with the studly young college student who does her lawn work."

Gee, I wish I could get my groove back like that. But my lawn people stopped coming altogether!

Wendy said...

Kristie: Maybe start having your groceries delivered? ;) Heeeeee.

Marie-Thérèse said...

Interesting to see blood play in a general erotic anthology like this. Even for Cleis, that's kind of pushing the envelope.

Also, just curious, Wendy, but what proportion (approximately) of the stories were 2-person, heterosexually focused? Seems like most of them based on your reviews. Which kind of surprises and just a tiny bit disappoints me given that this is compiled by Cleis, a publisher that's long been a leader in LGBTQI literature.

Goddess, it's pretty standard to use the editor's name in collections of themed fiction, essays or poetry of almost any kind. Certainly in international literary fiction anthologies and in academic essay collections (the kind of anthologies I'm most familiar with) using the editor on the cover and for categorization is de rigueur. I actually think that romance, with its focus on the authors even in an anthology, is the outlier here.