Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Best Erotic Romance? As Advertised

I love erotica and erotic romance, but let's be honest: it's not an easy sub genre to navigate.  I'll be blunt: there's a lot of crap.  So when I'm looking to scope out some new-to-me authors who write the steamy stuff, I tend to turn to anthologies.  I get more bang for my buck (ha!), and if a story doesn't work for me, I'm not out a lot of time.  Cleis Press (based out of the Bay Area) does a lot of anthologies, including this one with the presumptuous title of Best Erotic Romance. Then it got a starred review in Publisher's Weekly.  Yeah, had to read it - mostly because PW doesn't give out starred reviews like popcorn to the steamy stuff.  So my verdict?  Well, no gold star from Wendy, but yes - this is one strong anthology.

What Happens in Vegas by Sylvia Day features a hero who travels to Las Vegas fairly frequently for business.  It's on one of these trips that he first hooks up with the heroine, and they enter into a casual fling.  Then she makes it known that she wants more from him, and he bolts.  The problem?  He's miserable without her, and now that he's back in Vegas?  He'll do anything to win her back.  This is sexy and steamy, but be warned that even I (not new to erotic reading!) found the language extremely frank.  Grade = B

First Night by Donna George Storey finds the heroine on the eve of her wedding day getting cold feet because she thinks the sex will get boring and dull.  She's so concerned about this that she almost calls the whole thing off.  I mean, really?  Really?!  Despite her being dippy, I liked the hero and the playful domination that factors in on their wedding night.  Grade = B-

Another Trick Up My Sleeve by Heidi Champa is a story I really loved.  Our couple is looking for ways to spice up their time in the bedroom, which currently involves a vinyl outfit and a whip.  Turns out though that they don't really need that much help.  I found this story really sweet and charming, featuring a couple who are still really hot for each other - with or without vinyl and whips.  Grade = B+

Drive Me Crazy by Delilah Devlin brings us some blue collar and older woman/younger man action.  The heroine is leaving her job at the freight company where she works and on her last day she's finally ready to proposition her favorite driver to get a proper goodbye.  A quick, steamy read - although I could have done without some of the redneck-ish-ness (seriously, a coworker named Cooter?!)  Grade = B-

Once Upon a Dinner Date by Saskia Walker is another older woman/younger man story, featuring a single mom who is having dinner with her new neighbor.  Uh, in his apartment.  Oh, and did I mention that she really likes food?  Um, a lot.  Walker is a pro working in the short format and I really enjoyed this story a lot.  The hero is sexy and sweet, and the heroine isn't shy about asking for what she wants.  Grade = B+

He Tends to Me by Justine Elyot is a story that just wasn't my bag.  Heroine is sick.  Hero hates it when she's sick.  So he tends to her, which involves a lot of sexy shenanigans.  It was the writing style here that didn't really click for me.  Also, I found the hero to be a dominant ass.  But this just might be my problem, since when I'm sick the last thing I want to do is be touched, let alone having screaming banshee sex.  Grade = C

Guest Services by Angela Caperton is another sweet story about a heroine getting ready to promote out of her hotel concierge job.  On her last night?  Yeah, she's ready to be bold and proposition the sexy business traveler she's been lusting after for months.  OK, not a terribly professional story, but I loved how hot these two were for each other.  Grade = B

Memories for Sale by Andrea Dale is a marriage in trouble story.  On the brink of finalizing their divorce, the couple has decided to sell their lakeside cabin.  Little do they know that they both plan to spend the weekend up there to say goodbye to the place, and their marriage.  Can you say reconciliation?  There was some infidelity in this marriage, and I know that's a deal-breaker for a lot of readers, but for me?  The author made me understand how this marriage started falling apart.  I also believe they can make a fresh go at it.  Grade = B

Blame It On Facebook by Kate Dominic is a story that starts out so amazing, but kind of fizzles for me at the end.  Widowed heroine reconnects with her husband's former military compatriots via Facebook.  Now she's in San Diego hooking up with the hero, a man who has loved her from afar for ages.  This is touching, heartbreaking and lovely - until the end.  Then the author has some throw away lines about sex toys and anal that just felt jarring.  It was like she was told by someone that she had to kink it up in order for this story to sell - and just no.  Honey, it was sexy enough before those throwaway lines.  Trust me.  Grade = B-

The Draft by Craig J. Soresen is really interesting. It takes place in 1968 and features our heroine hitching a ride with a truck-driver after her car breaks down.  OK, I know I'm not being fair - but this just sounds like a porn plot.  Also, the sex was most definitely written by a man.  But the time period is really interesting, and there's some good writing during the non-sexy-time moments.  Grade = C+

To Be in Clover by Shanna Germain is another sweet story featuring a really horny heroine propositioning her farmer husband while he's working in the fields.  I loved the sweetness of the hero, almost Beta-like, and the heroine who is so obviously hot for him.  Grade = B

Honey Changes Everything by Emerald is a timely story about a husband who has lost his job, and his wife who is determined to show him that he didn't let her down.  She's making him breakfast in bed when he spies her in the kitchen and shenanigans ensue.  A nice story about a couple hitting a speed-bump in their personal lives.  Grade = B

Cheating Time by Kate Pearce features a plot I've read a million times before but it's one that I never seem to get tired of.  Heroine is meeting her date at a roadside honky tonk bar, hoping to escape her hum-drum existence for a while.  What she gets is one sexy cowboy who knows how to push all her buttons.  Grade = B+

Our Own Private Champagne Room by Rachel Kramer Bussel has a hero attending a friend's bachelor party and a heroine who is more than a little jealous thinking about him in some strip club champagne room.  So she decides to surprise him once he gets home.  Hubby is not only surprised, but very, very happy.  Grade = B

Till the Storm Breaks by Erobintica finds the hero, heroine, and her BFF on a trip to visit his brother when a blizzard stalls them out at the family cabin.  Gee, whatever shall they do to pass the time?  Pretty much standard issue menage story.  Nothing offensive, but nothing spectacular either.  Grade = C

The Curve of Her Belly by Kristina Wright is another sweet story about a married couple, this time featuring a pregnant heroine who is feeling "ugly" and a hero who wants to convince her she is more beautiful than ever.  Hot stuff, and a scenario I can see happening in "real life."  Grade = B

Dawn Chorus by Nikki Magennis starts at 3AM and all the uptight hero wants is some sleep.  Instead he's listening to his wild child downstairs neighbor blast dreadful music that is literally rattling the walls.  It's when he goes to confront her that things get really interesting.  He finally snaps and she learns to listen, translation being whoa doggieGrade = B

This really was a strong anthology, and a great way to pass a few days worth of reading time.  Even the stories that didn't light my world on fire were still readable, and I especially loved the stories featuring married couples.  One doesn't always immediately expect "sweet" when it comes to erotic writing, but so many of these stories were just that. It not only flipped my erotica switch, it flipped my romance one as well.

Final Grade = B


JamiSings said...

See, it's your reviews that makes me want to try erotica, but I just cannot handle anal. At all. It's too stomach churning to me.

I'm really tempted to order one these personalized eroticas the author mentioned over on SBTB. Simply because I could specify no anal. I just keep tipping in one direction or another. Ever do the personalized stuff, Wendy? Or anyone else? And did you like it?

Wendy said...

Jami: This one is actually really light on the anal. Only two stories really feature it (the Elyot and the Pearce). Blame It On Facebook doesn't actually feature "the act" they just talk about it at the end of the story, which I found really jarring. Oh, and that starred review in PW? Yeah, we've got this book in system :)

Have never tried the personalized stuff - outside of those books you could get as a kid.

Hilcia said...

Wendy, that's a great grade from you for this anthology. I tend to like erotica anthologies from Cleis Press, they usually do a good job of choosing their authors/stories -- for M/F, Menage and LGBT. I buy their LGBT anthologies more often than their M/F, but I need to check out some of these more often.

Jill Sorenson said...

This looks good. I just read a Cleis story I really enjoyed, The Captain and Claire by Gabrielle West. I'm encouraged to buy more from them.

Kristina Wright said...

Wendy, I'm delighted to get a solid B from you for Best Erotic Romance. Thank you! (I'm a former library assistant, so I've been reading and enjoying your reviews/blog for years.) I take it that because of the starred review in PW that your library system ordered the book? That's fantastic! Unfortunately, my ibrary didn't order it. Sigh.

Wendy said...

This is the third hetero anthology I've read by them in the last 6 months or so. Two of them were amazingly consistent, the other was more erratic but still featured some strong stories.

The older I get the more I think I prefer my erotic reading to be delivered in the short format.....

Wendy said...

Jill: Now that Black Lace has gone under (::sob::), Cleis might now be my go-to publisher for my steamy reading. They publish a nice variety in terms of content as well - which is always a plus.

Wendy said...

Kristina: I ordered a couple of copies thanks to the PW review, and it looks like three other branches ended up ordering copies on their own as well. Circulation is more than respectable - especially considering it has a three-week loan period.....

JamiSings said...

I don't think I could handle even a little bit of it. I don't mean to put down those who like it, but it just utterly freaks me out. I guess you could call it a phobia. I wonder what it would be named if it was officially diagnosed as one.

The nice thing about the personalized one is you can choose body types and ages. So I could, if I go for it, finally get a story involving a older hero/younger heroine, neither of whom are society's standard of beauty, and the heroine could have PCOS. Yes, I'd want her a lot like me. Heck, if I'm spending my money on it, why not?

Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper said...

I know this is going to sound really promo-y, but if you miss Black Lace as I do I couldn't not let you know that many of the old Black Lace writers will now be writing for Harper Collins' new imprint, Mischief. There's Janine Ashbless, Madelynne Ellis, KD Grace, Justine Elyot, Primula Bond, Monica Belle, Madeline Moore...and more to come, I believe.

The editor's Black Lace's old editor, Adam Nevill, and here's the website:

I'm excited to be a part of it, but almost as excited to read some of my old favourites, again. Hope it wasn't rude of me to say this!

Wendy said...

Charlotte: WooHoo! I had no idea about this new imprint! Thanks for mentioning it.