Cleis Press showers me with gifts on a regular basis. 15 erotic collections to be exact. And being the busy procrastinator that I am, I haven’t returned the love like I should have. Naughty me. So, for this review, I’m going to wax on and on and on…to make up for it.
So, here it is, boys and girls…Alison Tyler has created a lovely little treasure trove with this collection. She has a gifted eye for the erotic and the literary…which make for a powerful combination in this satisfying read.
First off, I think the theme and organization are fantastically creative. Each story combines with a time of day, beginning at 4 a.m. with “Wake Up Call” by Jax Baynard and ending at 3 a.m. with Alison Tyler’s “Last Call” for a total of 24 hours and 24 stories.
There really is something for everyone in this anthology. It’s aimed at couples (hence the subtitle “erotica for couples”) and definitely lends itself well to being read aloud. I will say, it is rather tame, which isn’t a bad thing…in fact, it’s refreshing. It’s nice to see that “plain old one-on-one vanilla sex” is still being written about with freshness and verve. The back of the book rightfully claims that the book is “a sizzling collection of headily sensual stories featuring hot for each other couples whose love fuels their lust”.
The sheer variety of the stories makes it hard to put the book down. Here are some quick mini-reviews of my top ten in the collection, in chronological order.
“5 a.m. Walk of Shame” by Dante Davidson –
Quite a little twist in this one, which I greatly appreciated. Writers of erotic fiction who have the ability to truly craft a story rather than simply write about sex in an explicit manner warm my language-obsessed soul. In this short, Davidson has created characters that I believe, dialogue I can hear, and scenes I can see and feel.
Gennifer, in her “dark wine-colored satin corset fastened over a white peasant blouse and a short, flirty black-and-red velvet skirt” and Max work in a coffee shop, where they serve some customers “their regular dull coffee to go with their regular dull lives”. But there are others, the “walk of shamers…the patrons she liked best, enjoying spinning stories about what their night-befores might have been like” that inspire the events of the story, like Flo, the “hall of famer walk of shamer” with whom making eye-contact is difficult for Max as he serves her…”she was so obviously recently fucked.”
Ultimately, it’s a fun little jaunt into fantasyland…one that would be easily replicated in role-play, if a reader were so inclined to be inspired.
“6 a.m. Coffee” by Heidi Champa –
Oh, what a fun exchange between a man and a wife. I could so see this scene playing out in my own house…the doting husband who gets off hearing about his wife’s escapades…her words driving him onward…his reaction encouraging her words.
Elisha comes home “late” from a bachelorette party…at a strip-club. Seriously, need I say more? My favorite line in the whole story sums up everything that makes this story wonderfully delicious (and realistic) – the dialogue: “Here I was, worried something terrible had happened to you, and you were busy fingering a stripper.”
” 11 a.m. Elevenses” by Jeremy Edwards –
According to Jeremy’s website (bio) – “Though he is aware that most of the planet’s sentient species manage to enjoy copulation without ever putting on their reading glasses, he personally feels that a judicious turn of explicit phrase can be worth its weight in primal bliss. His lascivious prose embodies an enthusiasm for sex in its sunniest form, as he strives to blend the sensuous and the playful, lighthearted laughter and erotic urgency.”
This story proves it. In fact, it had me smiling the whole way through. Not only is it written well, it brought me a feeling of contentment. “Elevenses” is the story of a couple moving halfway across the country, leaving behind the comforts of decade-kept routines, finding, in the back of a truck in a parking lot in Nebraska, that home is within us…literally.
I love how the characters, Drew and Cilla, cling to the comforts of an everyday love and show that long-term relationships don’t necessarily become stale because they are well-charted and known, inside and out. In fact, it is just this quality that allows those couples who have been together for years to please each other so completely. Everything is a case of “you had to be there”, a series of inside jokes and intimate secrets that make two people a couple. I not only had the sense of sexual lust from the this story, but also the sense of trust, commitment, humor, and love.
“1 p.m. Test Drive” by Angell Brooks –
I knew immediately that I would relate to this story and it’s main character in the second paragraph: “It had been a hellish day so far, and all she wanted to do was get through the next four hours without killing someone. After that, it was a long bus ride home to a hot bath, yoga pants and NCIS marathon on her PVR. And wine. Lots of wine.”
It’s hard not to smile at the bits of humor infused into this sexy tale of a woman who underestimates herself and the man who builds her back up: “As he took a deep breath to calm himself, he managed to slide the key fob easily into the ignition. He flashed to an image of sliding into Trish that easily and his cock throbbed.”
I did have a few problems with the story. For example, Trish and Alex take a fancy Lexus SUV on a test drive. Trish is sitting next to a hot guy in a fancy car they are about to hand over to a client, and she falls asleep? And later, this same self-conscious woman who thinks all the skinny hot chicks in the office cast a shadow across her plump, 32-year-old, polyester-wearing self, takes complete command in the back of the SUV? I don’t buy it.
But, it didn’t stop me from loving the story. So I still give it a rave review.
“2 p.m. Biker Bar” by Thomas S. Roche –
I have to admit, I was turned off by the title…and the first several paragraphs really didn’t grab me…but once I gave into the charmingly devilish male voice of the narrator (who struck me as a laid-back GQ sort of adorable man-child with a five o’clock shadow and a crotch-rocket), I was pretty much sold. The story really is so conversational that I can almost feel the smile in his words.
The homerun for me with this story is the believability of Summer – the girl who has a dirty streak she really doesn’t want anyone to know about…the kind of dirty streak she covets in her own mind but is marginally embarassed by outside it. Of course, the male voice encourages “the dirty” in her and she uses it to her advantage, in coy whispers of school-girl flirtation. She makes promises in his ear…”If you take me home right now, you can spank me…and fuck me…and fuck my ass…”
Summer is an easy character to relate to, and she is described by a doting male voice in a way that would easily encourage all female readers to submit to those things they would never admit to wanting. More than submit actually…beg for them, in secret, of course.
“3 p.m. Closed-door Meeting” by Sasha White –
This is a fun little number that is great because it’d be so easy to replicate (hey, we all need a little inspiration from time to time). A married couple, separated by an ocean, prepare to reunite by having some fun for each other via webcam, he in a hotel bed, she in her office, with the door closed but unlocked.
Nothing too terribly original here; I just appreciated the sweetness of the characters and getting to know them through the realistic, natural dialogue…this easily could be a conversation had between my husband and I.
My absolute favorite paragraph, and the moment I put this story in the top 10:
Hunger for his taste filled my soul and I whimpered. God, I missed him. I wanted him, I craved his touch, his taste…his body inside mine as we connected in the most basic way. The slickness of my need flooded my thighs as our eyes met; it was as if there were nothing between us, and when his lips parted and his command reached my ears, my body obeyed. “Come for me, wife.”
“10 p.m. Portraits” by Preston Avery –
Another fun interpretation of marital experimentation to spice up the everyday hum-drum of a possibly tepid relationship. I get a kick out of the husband character in this story – an engineer who is awkward with modern technology (i.e. an 8 megapixel smartphone that he buys his wife). Of course, from the get-go, you know that, based on the title and the introduction, this story is going to revolve around texting naughty pictures. There is a tiny twist to it though, to keep it fresh: the photos are just subtly sexy – a neck, a belly button, painted toenails, the inside of a thigh…the sorts of things that would appeal to someone who knows all the parts in-between and can (and will) mentally fill in the spaces that are left out.
The wife of the story, sends pics throughout the day…but the real fun comes when the husband gets his chance to work his way back through them, in person.
Like most of the stories I preferred in this collection, the close relationship of the couple is what carries the story. The underlying concept of long-term lust, based on the sort of deep knowing, earned over time, being made fresh by trying something new. These kinds of stories gain their strength from authors and readers who believe that relationships can evolve over time, and that small changes can have a heavy impact. Avery’s interpretation of this possibility is crafted with honesty…a bit of a bumbling, geeky husband who is at the mercy of his wife, until his cock is hard and he’s got her naked.
And just wait until you make it to 10 p.m. Thoroughly delectable.
“1 a.m. Girls’ Night Out” by Vida Bailey –
This one is not a story about a married couple (interesting, though how most of the stories I liked were – could just be my bias toward what I know best and am most comfortable with). This is, however, fun in a “we’ve all been there” sort of way – trying hard to look like we don’t care as we watch the person we want “want” somebody else.
Cally wants Rob. Rob wants Cally. But, Cally doesn’t want Rob to know. Cally doesn’t want Cally to know. But Cally can’t help herself and finds herself at the mercy of a man who has the ability to control her body in a way that makes her a bit uncomfortable, nervous, and wet.
First time sexual experiences need to be handled with care, in reality and in writing, whic Vida does. When boundaries are being stretched, it is understandable that people would be worried and insecure. Cally embodies these emotions, but gives herself to the moment, answering Rob’s repetitive inquiry, “What do you want?” with a question, “You?” She’s a sympathetic character…it’s easy to understand her emotions and her thought process. And in a short story like this, that’s a hard thing to provide, as a writer.
I like how Rob, who is obviously in control, continually allows Cally a way out, if she wants it. Of course she never does, even when she breaks and lets it all go.
“2 a.m. Date Night” by Sophia Valenti –
Growl. That’s all I have to say.
Well, no really…I suppose I should expound upon that, as this is a review. The concept of a one-sided open-relationship isn’t all that new. A husband allowing his wife to fuck around on him isn’t original…but the twist of the wife knowing she will come home to punishment for it, and the husband moving “closer…in the darkness, like a predator slowly stalking his prey. ‘I have such a bad girl for a wife’…’Such a bad, slutty girl…” add a little umph to an old story. Brandon pushes Celia to tell him everything she has just done on a late night date with an old flame, brandishing his belt and making sure she knows that cuckholding him is not only part of his turn-on, but also a large part of his power over her.
Brandon’s and Celia’s agreement works for them both…and even though I usually don’t fall for stories of BDSM…I have a hankering for this variety…the sort that take into account the central relationship of the characters, because that’s what really gets them off. I guess I’m just a romantic at heart – and sex for sex’s sake isn’t all that appealing to me…at least in print – because then it’s just porn. And porn, while it has it’s place, isn’t what erotica is about. If I don’t have an emotional connection with the characters, it is just not worth my time.
“So when are you seeing Rick again?” Brandon asked breathlessly, his voice tinged with hope.
“Good — I can’t wait.”
“3 a.m. Last Call” by Alison Tyler –
Well, Alison…a first-time, 5-man gang-bang in the middle of a cleared-out bar at 3 in the morning is a nice way to end an already enticing collection of erotic stories.
Closing time’s coming. I look at the clock over the bar. The boys are starting to shuffle around. I can tell they want the rest of the crowd to leave as much as I do. Stumble home, people. Get into your trucks, shut one eye, and hope you make the ride home alive. However you do it, get the fuck out.
Exactly…let’s get on with the show. After a quick explanation of her choices, the deed begins to play out, under the guidance of her husband Declan. It’s a motley crew, to say the least, though the addition of the pudgy line cook whom Dina feels a little sorry for add some humility to the whole thing. And Dina’s introspective thoughts, like “Most of the day, we walk around stifling our inner selves, damping down the words we’d love to let loose…” easily strike a cord with the reader.
We all have fantasies like this. Most of us, however, never act on them. Dina claims, “…when you’re part of the old-and-married club, the tools get rusty. You’re not supposed to want to fuck anyone else anymore, ever again. Take your libido, honey. Bottle it up in that mason jar and stick the thing on a shelf. No more surprises for you, dearie. You’re all used up.”
But this collection proves that seriously wrong, now doesn’t it? So many wonderful ways to keep a long-term relationship going. So many fantasies and experiments. In fact, oftentimes, it the comfort of knowing that you’re safe and secure–and that the other person will still be there in the morning if it all goes terribly wrong–that allows the “old-and-married club” to act out their fantasies more readily than those who are new to the game or in a new and untried relationship. I can speak from experience. 90% of my craziest sex experiences have happened since I got married. And why? Because I know he isn’t going anywhere. I can let my inhibitions go because our safe word is “commitment”.
Lovely job, Alison. Such a pleasurable way to spend a weekend.
Pages of the other authors in the collection (whose stories were by no means bad, just not as appealing to me as the others)…I encourage you (because I know will be doing it) to check them out.
Donna George Storey
Teresa Noelle Roberts
I couldn’t find sites for Jax Baynard or Georgia E. Jones. Please let me know if you find one, so I can link to it here.