Bondage Bites | Erotica Reviews, July 2015

Rise to the Challenge. Life is full of challenges. For some, the pleasure lies in the victory—but for others, the struggle alone is its own reward. This month we’re exploring sexy stories wherein characters are pushed to the limit, with some loving every minute of it. Cleis is back with another kinky-quick bondage anthology, with authors of vastly different styles and techniques exploring the elements of boundary and control that are instrumental to much of BDSM. In Christine d’Abo’s 30 Days, a woman embarks on a 30-day sex challenge posed by her late husband in order to rekindle her flame, finding unexpected love from what she thought would be a simple one-month stand. Champions are pushed to their physical and sexual peaks in the Athletic Aesthetic compilation, while Sophie and Cary each battle past demons in Sharon Page’s naughty new installment in “The Wicked Dukes” series.

Lust After Loss

redstard’Abo, Christine. 30 Days. Kensington. Aug. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781617739545. pap. $9.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617739552. EROTICA

30days72715Alyssa Barrow lost her husband and high school sweetheart Rob two years ago to cancer. Widowed at 35 and finally ready to move on, she opens his last letter to her and discovers a 30 Day Sex Challenge—daily cards with fantasies and sex acts to help Alyssa reignite her sex life. Fortunately, hot new neighbor Harrison is a more than willing participant. With commitment issues of his own, he seems the perfect fit for a one-month fling. But it’s not just lust that sparks between the two, and before they know it, Alyssa and Harrison run the risk of wanting more from their little game. Will they stick to their rules, or settle down and stop running away? Though it bears heavy undertones, this book handles grief and lust with balanced finesse as it depicts Alyssa struggling to reconcile the thrill of a new partner with the guilt of leaving her late husband behind. The “sex cards” device provides naughty fun not only for the characters but for readers as well, allowing for a variety of sexual acts and an element of surprise as each new dirty dare is revealed (though there is a slightly abrasive running implication that only penetrative intercourse constitutes “real” sex and thus serves as the endgame for the couple). VERDICT Perfect for folks seeking a well-written, hot read with substance.

Jackson, Vina. Autumn. Open Road. (Pleasure Quartet, Bk. 1). Aug. 2015. 420p. ISBN 9781497684065. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781497684041. EROTICA

After losing her lover Dominik to a sudden heart attack months ago, talented violinist Summer Zahova begins drowning her grief in rough sex with strangers, using the feeling of being used to quell the sharp pain of her loss. Knowing she is broken in a way that casual sex cannot fix, Summer allows herself to be taken to a mystical island with friends, finding solace and surrender from pleasure that she’s not quite certain is real. Back home, new beginnings emerge in the form of the passionate, alluring Antony Torgerson, the man who wants to adapt her late lover’s novel for the stage. Summer quickly finds enticing familiarity in Antony’s enthusiasm for his craft and for sex as the two embark on a tumultuous affair while collaborating to bring Dominik’s book to life. When the play loses funding over its heightened sexuality, Summer realizes that the mysterious couple who orchestrated her island spectacle could take their show beyond anyone’s wildest erotic dreams. VERDICT Jackson has set the bar high with this stunning opening of “The Pleasure Quartet.” Darkly erotic, this novel edges toward the heavier side of the genre, occasionally depicting sex scenes in which consent is ambiguous. Volatile protagonist Summer is all too aware, and at times afraid, of her hunger for pain and the ease with which danger seduces her. Writing team Jackson’s arresting prose infuses this sensuous tale.

PUSHING THE LIMIT

redstarAthletic Aesthetic: An Erotic Anthology of Sporting Prowess. Sweetmeats. Sept. 2015. 243p. ed. by Kojo Black. ISBN 9781909181458. pap. $16.95. EROTICA

Five long-form stories comprise this anthology from across the pond. First up is Lisa Fox’s “Rigorous Training,” in which gymnast Christy embarks on a mission to persuade the legendary hermit Kyle Weston to train her for her comeback. Hidden from the public eye for over ten years, Kyle is far from the grizzled has-been Christy is expecting—she is instead greeted by a gorgeous young man with an intense training technique and a keen awareness of her mounting lust. By the end of their sessions, both athletes are rewarded, in more ways than one. Emerald’s “Doubleheader” is a tale of lovers reunited. Relegated to a corporate (albeit impressive) position as vice president and CFO of a baseball team, owing to the lack of women’s major league baseball, Rita is shaken up by the reappearance of Chad Tomlinsen, major league star and former flame, who nearly swept her into a very different life years ago. Though Rita swore never to sleep with any of her players, her reunion with Chad and rookie Evan’s longtime crush encourage her to bend the rules. Vanessa Wu’s odd yet determined narrator sets her sights on an attractive racing fanatic in “Monococque.” The two form an instant connection aboard a ten-hour flight from London to Shanghai, leading her to engage in a number of risky pursuits to score tickets to Shanghai’s big race. Luckily, the two finally meet again and fulfill their dreams of raunchy, racing-related sexual exploits, complete with Formula One double entendres. In Lexie Bay’s “Playing with the Big Boys,” Grace knows she needs to lock down notable client Jay Morgan to be respected by her male peers. She also knows his soft spot is golf, so she plans to gain some experience by teeing off with three of the hottest, most conceited men from her office. When things go better than planned, leading to private “lessons” from all three, Grace celebrates with a private party for her new boy toys. The final contribution, Malin James’s “The Master,” is a departure from its peers, unique in its dark tone and depiction of M/M sex scenes. Although the mysterious fencing expert Alin Dalca disappeared more than 50 years ago, rumors abound that he still trains athletes to perfection as “The Master.” Lured by the promise of greatness, Tom Granger finds himself in a Romanian chalet with three other male contestants, an enchantingly aloof female instructor, and more sexual temptation than he can contemplate. When the men learn that their training will consist mainly of “moderate pain” and total submission, Tom is more than ready to play to win. VERDICT These rich, evocative tales shed light on the spicy side of such unconventionally sexy sports as golf and fencing. A standout title.

Bondage Bites: 69 Super-Short Stories of Love, Lust and BDSM. Cleis. Aug. 2015. 232p. ed. by Alison Tyler. ISBN 9781627781183. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781627781343. EROTICA

“Bite” is truly the name of the game with this compilation of sexy snippets from Cleis. The anthology kicks off with Tyler’s “B,” relating a hot encounter between two (fairly anonymous) lovers in a movie theater bathroom, involving handcuffs and ripped tights. Kathryn O’Halloran demonstrates the intangible mentality of bondage in “Chalk,” with a dominant who restrains his submissive using mere illusion, while another couple discover a new, mobile twist on their kink in Tilly Hunter’s “Taken for a Ride.” The majority of the pieces depict heterosexual couples with female subs, though the pattern is periodically shaken up with figures including Sommer Marsden’s female domme in “Pride in My Work” and the narrator in Tamsin Flowers’s “Blindingly Obvious,” who discovers her dominant side during a romantic, role-playing getaway. The brevity of each contribution limits the possibility of extensive detail, making this title less graphic in nature than other Cleis works but no less enjoyable. VERDICT Proof that good things can come in small packages.

Kent, Lavinia. Sarah’s Surrender. Loveswept. (Bound & Determined). Sept. 2015. 115p. ebk. ISBN 9781101964996. 99¢. EROTICA

Trapped at a ball in a hideous dress, the frugal and forlorn Sarah Swilp had reluctantly decided to marry repugnant family “friend” Mr. Meyers in a last-ditch effort to save her family from poverty when Jonathan Perry appears. The man, once her childhood love, crushed her spirit with a simple phrase five years ago: “I will never marry you.” Struck by her visible deflation, Jonathan is nevertheless drawn back to Sarah, the woman he believes shunned him by failing his “test” of love over money. It is obvious to both that passion still exists between them, prompting Sarah to make an unconventional decision: to re-create that fateful night five years ago, this time with no expectation of marriage on either side. But Sarah and Jonathan have grown and changed, leading the night to have unintentional results. Though Jonathan’s ignorance regarding the gravity of his actions proves frustrating, the couple have a sizzling D/s dynamic in the bedroom that will keep readers enthralled. Kent’s (“The Real Duchesses of London” series) refreshing portrayal of Jonathan as dominant demonstrates his appetite for control, while still highlighting his complete interest in submissive Sarah’s pleasure. VERDICT This impressive novella packs sexy action and a compelling story line into 115 pages. Recommended for fans of Kent’s previous works and those seeking titillating Regency erotica.

Page, Sharon. Deeper in Sin. Aphrodisia: Kensington. (Wicked Dukes, Bk. 2). Sept. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9781617730948. pap. $12.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617730955. EROTICA

Young country girl Sophie Ashley finds herself homeless, with a child out of wedlock after sleeping with her beloved, then losing him in war. Shunned by her family and friends, she goes to London to earn a living as a courtesan, believing she can find a protector to support her and fellow widow Belle’s small family. Sneaking into a sophisticated Cyprian ball lands her the acquaintance of Fitzwilliam Montcleif, war hero and Duke of Caradon, who is one of the wild foursome known as the Wicked Dukes (Deeply in You), named so for their notorious revelry and love of bedding women. But Cary has been unable to live up to his raucous reputation since his harrowing time as a prisoner of war. Sophie, drawn to his gentleness and protective nature, endeavors to become his mistress, believing she can heal his impotence and perhaps even win his heart. When an attacker starts murdering courtesans and pinning the crimes on Cary, it is up to Sophie and the Wicked Dukes to solve the mystery and clear his name. Full of sweetness and sex interspersed with fighting, intrigue, murder, and revenge, this novel keeps readers entertained, in and out of the bedroom. VERDICT This title embodies all the classic qualities of strong, sexy historical erotica. Recommended for fans of the genre.

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