IN VOGUE E.L. James’s “50 Shades” trilogy set off a landslide of interest in erotic fiction heretofore not seen among general readers and, subsequently, librarians. LJ jumped in with a cover story (“Erotica’s Full-Frontal Shelving”), but reviewing has been limited to ebook originals. LJ is once again venturing into new territory, as we did with e-original reviews two years ago, with a quarterly column covering what our reviewer considers the best of current erotic fiction (this first foray is just a taste). We will try diligently to keep the lines distinct between erotica and erotic romance; our romance coverage will continue in its six-times-a-year frequency. If the craze for all things erotic is still strong in your library, we trust these reviews will help with those “prickly” collection decisions. Feel free to blush!
Columnist Ashleigh Williams lets us in on her process: “I am thrilled to kick off LJ’s new erotica column with such a strong collection of diverse titles. Variety is the spice of life, and these books will whet any appetite in this niche genre. Erotic Stories sifts through classic literature to bring you the most salacious scenes, while Nasty Boys is a bombastic foray into rough trade gay erotica. A Girl Walks into a Bar will be a great choice for novices, with its change-it-up style and hot, brief sex scenes. Veteran readers looking for something more explicit (and more in line with the mainstream trend of BDSM) would do well to try The Initiation of Ms. Holly, while women of a certain age may find a kindred spirit in Dare To Be Wild.”
Davis, Eden. Dare To Be Wild. Zane Presents: Strebor. (Eden Davis, Bk. 3). Jan. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781593093433. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781451609165. erotica
Forty-nine-year-old Olivia Charles has had her fair share of bumps. After a messy divorce from her husband of 23 years and a battle with breast cancer, she is convinced that her days of love (and lust) are over. Her friends, however, have very different plans and encourage Livia to create a “Fuck-It List” of fantasies, with the intention of bringing two of them to life. Skeptical Livia approaches the task with hesitation but soon finds herself engaging in thrilling sex acts that she’d only pursued in her wildest dreams, with a vibrant new sense of confidence to match. Livia isn’t the only one exploring new boundaries; her close friend Jasi, a self-proclaimed wild child, grapples with her own issues of identity and commitment to what, or who, will truly make her happy. Will both women realize that life is even better when lived outside their comfort zone? Verdict Though described as erotica for “women of a certain age,” this novel features language that can be surprisingly juvenile. Odd erotic euphemisms abound, to the point of hindering the effect of sex scenes. While this is a consistent issue throughout the text, it is tempered by the portrayal of Davis’s strong, likable characters. Many readers will be able to relate to Livia’s and Jasi’s struggles with themselves and their relationships. There’s a fair bit of sexual variety explored in terms of kinks, including threesomes, sex toys, and girl-on-girl. Overall, this is a fun, sexy novel, if one can get past the terminology. Recommended for fans of Davis’s other works (Dare To Be Seduced; Dare To Be Tempted) and those looking for something a bit outside predictable erotic fare.
Erotic Stories. Everyman’s Library. (Pocket Classics). Jan. 2014. 400p. ed. by Rowan Pelling. ISBN 9780375712395. $16. erotica
Ever wanted to read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but only the dirty parts? Or perhaps wondered what all the fuss is about in the TV miniseries Tipping the Velvet? This collection of erotic tales and excerpts spans centuries and seas, from nascent love in ancient Greece to supernatural trysts that make time stand still. British journalist and broadcaster Pelling shrewdly remarks in her preface on the academic value of what might be considered a thoroughly licentious endeavor: placing these seemingly disparate accounts of love and lust in one anthology creates an interesting commentary on the remarkable shifts in attitude toward certain kinds of love, and certain kinds of sex, throughout the years. Verdict This collection might not appeal to the generic erotica crowd—some of the pieces are denser than others, and the diversity among the works guarantees an inconsistent style that might be jarring for those seeking a cohesive, sexy tale. However, this is a fantastic volume for fans of classic literature and classically written erotica. Recommended.
Grace, K.D. The Initiation of Ms. Holly. Xcite: Sourcebooks Casablanca. Feb. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781402289651. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402289668. erotica
This novel is intense from the start, with a sexy rendezvous between strangers thrown into pitch darkness on a stalled London-bound train. Rita Holly gets the name and phone number of her mysterious lover, but she never sees his face. Edward asks her to meet him at the Mount, London’s most exclusive club, with almost as many rumors to its name as elite clientele. Soon, Rita is thrown into an underground world of sex and sin that she never expected to enjoy. But when the journalist within her sees the perfect opportunity for a juicy exposé, it becomes an internal battle between playing the game for love and furthering her career. That is, if she can she see the initiation through to the end. A range of fetishes is explored, from tame spanking and leather play to human pets, but there remains a steady D/s element throughout. While most scenes will appeal to those into BDSM, there is a great deal of humiliation, and some of the interactions veer into gray areas regarding consent. Verdict This intriguing novel from Grace (Seven Deadly Sins; Body Temperature and Rising) involves love, mystery, luxury, and betrayal and features a strong story with even stronger depictions of sex. There’s an admirable abundance of plot and porn (though the multiple instances of dubious consent might hinder enjoyment for some), and the plethora of sexual encounters, even at their raunchiest, become a bit repetitive. Overall, a top pick for hard-core erotica fans.
Nasty Boys: Rough Trade Erotica. Cleis. 2013. 216p. ed. by Shane Allison. ISBN 9781573449663. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781573449854. EROTICA
Allison (Straight Guys: Gay Erotic Fantasies; Cruising: Gay Erotic Stories) is back with a gritty collection of erotic, male/male short stories. From dirty cops to lonely bikers, this volume truly lives up to its title. Though varied in style and degree, all these tales share the theme of “nasty boys”: rough men with a penchant for even rougher sex. Most of the characters are very conventionally masculine: construction workers, mobsters, cops, and private eyes. The sex could be classified as “macho” at its gentlest and downright violent (and nonconsensual) at the other end of the spectrum. With explosive language and coarse, frantic sexual encounters, some of these pieces are nasty to the point of absurdity, with shock value occasionally eclipsing erotic appeal. Most of the tales are very brief, ranging from ten to 20 pages, which is advantageous for those seeking variety but can be overwhelming when each work is more graphic than the next. Some stories incorporate slurs and slang terminology that might be disturbing or triggering to readers. Verdict Overall, a filthy, fun read for those who are titillated by harsh, rugged men and rough sex and who aren’t squeamish about danger, dubious consent, or the grittier side of foreplay. These short bursts of male-on-male smut take a walk on the wild side.
Paige, Helena S. A Girl Walks into a Bar: Your Fantasy, Your Rules. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 259p. ISBN 9780062291974. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062291981. erotica
It’s definitely girl’s night out with this quirky twist on standard erotic fiction. Here, readers are the main characters, and the story is theirs to define. What starts off as a relaxing evening out with a friend has the potential to turn into much more with every decision readers make, from what underwear to don to whether they should stick around when the one-night stand whips out a paddle. This format allows for variety; with so many different paths, the book is essentially a collection of similar brief tales that can be enjoyed over and over. There are plenty of opportunities to have different types of fun and sexy encounters with different types of men (and women), which will be attractive to various kinks and sexual appetites. While the “customizable” aspect will engage, it also has a few shortcomings. Each tale is rather short, which could appeal to those looking for a quick dose of smut but might leave readers seeking a longer story unsatisfied. Every event takes place over the course of one night and includes one to two sex scenes per scenario. Readers might find things getting a bit repetitive or predictable after a few read-throughs. Verdict This book is a great choice for those interested in a quick, raunchy read without a whole lot of plot; the sex scenes are explicit without being too graphic. Great for someone just delving into the genre; recommended for general erotica collections.