Jackson, Kent, Lauren, Rock, plus BDSM Writer’s Con Expands | Erotica Reviews, January 1, 2016

Naughty New Beginnings After December’s indulgence and the havoc wrought by holiday cheer, January brings the promise of a reset button on life and relationships. Ravishing Ruby’s Madame Rouge has made a new life for herself twice over but finds both of her selves thrown off balance by a strict family rule and the reappearance of strapping captain Derek Price. London and Luke struggle to move past bad habits and old heartbreak in order to build something real together in Christina Lauren’s Wicked Sexy Liar, and sensual Moana forges her own erotic path as a means of self-discovery in Vina Jackson’s newest addition to the “Pleasure Quartet,” Spring. J.A. Rock’s witty masochist Miles is trying to leave his life of kink behind to pursue a life of fatherhood, but sweet sadist Hendrix has other plans. Two brand spanking new anthologies from Cleis round out 2015’s cream of the crop in the realms of lesbian and women’s erotica.

Risky resolutions

redstarJackson, Vina. Spring. Open Road. (Pleasure Quartet, Bk. 3). Feb. 2016. 386p. ISBN 9781504016865. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781504016827. EROTICA

spring.jpg123115Moana Irving and Iris Lark have had a unique connection since childhood, drawn together by their refusal to follow the restrictive bonds of their Catholic school in New Zealand and by something sensual and unspoken. Iris’s free-spirited grandmother Joan further spurs their wild desires, regaling the girls with tales of the seductive, mystic traveling Ball with which she spent most of her life performing. When the pair are nominated by Joan to work the event, Moana and Iris undergo a transformative experience wherein Moana declares her love for Iris but is uncertain that her feelings are returned. Moana’s fears are realized when the two move to London—Iris takes a male lover, and the shifting desires of the two women draw them even farther apart. Once Iris fades from her life, Moana embarks on a difficult journey toward understanding her sexual appetites, through friends and lovers alike, until the mythical Ball brings the women together once again. London duo Jackson have penned another erotic hit, blending naughtiness and melancholy with striking, beautiful prose. VERDICT Various depictions of diverse couplings (including m/f, m/m, and f/f/m) and BDSM play are woven with Moana’s tale of sexual self-discovery; a subplot involving Joan’s diary provides a touch of historical romance and mystery. Fans of steamy sex scenes laced with magic realism will thoroughly enjoy this “Pleasure Quartet” addition.

Kent, Lavinia. Ravishing Ruby. Loveswept: Random. (Bound & Determined, Bk. 3). Jan. 2016. 240p. ebk. ISBN 9781101965009. $2.99. EROTICA

Madame “Ruby” Rouge, neé Emma Scanton, is one of the most respected young madams in London, as well as an informal matchmaker who has appeared in previous “Bound and Determined” installments (Mastering the Marquess; Sarah’s Surrender). Ruby has a strict rule against fraternizing with patrons—a rule that was sorely tested and quickly broken with the appearance of burly, gorgeous Capt. Derek Price. Their single night of passion months ago still weighs on both their minds, and when they reunite, the spark is stronger than ever. In fact, neither Derek nor Ruby is prepared for the strength of their feelings, in and out of the bedroom. With each trapped by personal secrets and societal responsibilities, would a life together be worth what they would lose? Kent skillfully rounds out a full narrative of ­Ruby’s and Derek’s distinct struggles (social ­illegitimacy, sexism, and personal freedom versus familial duty, to name but a few), while keeping the text chock-full of varied, vibrant erotic scenes—Ruby and Derek’s chemistry is just as explosive during their unbridled trysts as with their slow, ardent lovemaking. VERDICT Recommended for fans of the series and where Regency erotica is in demand.

Lauren, Christina. Wicked Sexy Liar. Gallery. (Wild Seasons, Bk. 4). Feb. 2016. 384p. ISBN 9781476777986. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476777993. EROTICA

London Hughes is the roommate of Lola, part of the tight-knit trio from previous “Wild Seasons” installments, rounded out by besties Harlow Vega and Mia Holland. A recent college graduate with a (presently underutilized) degree in graphic design, London spends her days surfing and her nights bartending at Fred’s, much to the chagrin of her distant Colorado family. Her routine is wholly shaken when gorgeous player Luke walks into the bar. Thinking he’s the perfect one-night stand, London starts a fling with Luke, but neither expects the emotions that follow. Everything is made more complicated when London discovers that Luke’s intense first love, and subsequent broken heart, stemmed from a familiar face in her new circle of friends. Can both of them break their old habits and open their hearts to the possibility of new love? Though neither qualifies as ­Lauren’s most standout characters of the series, guarded London and flirtatious Luke are nuanced and understandable to fans of the new adult genre, from their Millennial career anxieties to their close friendships. VERDICT The abundant sexual tension between the pair sizzles just as much as the sex itself, with a notable shower scene that exemplifies Lauren’s ability to infuse familiar tropes with fresh passion. Recommended where the series is popular.

Rock, J.A. Pain Slut. Riptide. (Subs Club, Bk. 2). Feb. 2016. 320p. ISBN 9781626493469. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626493452. EROTICA

Miles Loucks, founder of the Subs Club, dedicated to making the kink community safer for submissives, is leaving the scene for good. At least that’s what he keeps telling himself; respectable parents don’t engage in BDSM, and Miles is ready to do whatever it takes to become the perfect father for his future adopted child. Until he meets Hendrix Seger, a soft-spoken sadist with purple eyes and pointed teeth who changes Miles’s whole relationship to pain. While Drix and Miles have incredible sex, and incredible play, there’s something deeper lurking beneath the surface of their scenes that Miles has never before experienced. But will being kinky kill his chance to be a father? Simultaneously hot and humorous, Rock’s writing deftly buoys the novel’s heavier elements (e.g., graphic scenes of erotic torture) with the wry wit and relatable concerns of its quirky characters. Miles has a nuanced life as a man deep into kink who is also a business owner with healthy friendships and aspirations to build a family. VERDICT This well-penned hard-core erotic tale blends sweet romance with a refreshingly comprehensive depiction of the kink lifestyle. Recommended for series fans and readers seeking m/m erotica on the edgy side.

females out front

redstarBest Lesbian Erotica: 20th Anniversary Edition. Cleis. Feb. 2016. 224p. ed. by Sacchi Green. ISBN 9781627781541. pap. $16.95. EROTICA

This 20th anniversary edition of the series soars with bestlesbian.jpg12311517 powerful f/f offerings that stand out from the crowd. Edited by Green, the anthology entails plenty of sexy first-time hookups, peppered with established couples and their raunchy routines. Rose de Fer’s “Dust” packs poetic grit and sensuality into lonely Alice’s otherworldly encounter with a beautiful hitchhiking stranger, while young couple Jesse and Asher explore their voracious sexual appetites and Jesse’s nascent dominant side in Sinclair Sexsmith’s piping hot “Luscious and Wild.” Other highlights include Jean Roberta’s eccentric “Tears from Heaven,” in which Dr. Athena Chalkdust lavishes young submissive protégé Didrick Bent with pain and pleasure after an incident of animal neglect. In “Mirror, Mirror,” Frankie Grayson’s protagonist finds dormant carnal pleasures awoken by the voyeuristic tendencies of her alluring look-alike. D.L. King doesn’t disappoint with “Hot Blood,” a sexy supernatural vignette in which gruff mechanic Van spots a potential packmate in a gorgeous redhead whose car breaks down, while Anna Watson’s playful “Easy” recounts a woman with a unique “talent” for finding an electric current in even the slightest of sensations, culminating in her orgasmic experience during a drag king performance. ­VERDICT The powerful stories range widely in content, kink, plot, and pairings but are uniform in their high quality and ability to craft engaging erotic tales with few words.

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year. Vol. 1. Cleis. Jan. 2016. 224p. ed. by Rachel Kramer Bussel. ISBN 9781627781534. pap. $16.95. EROTICA

Edited for the first time by frequent anthology contributor and erotica veteran Bussel, this annual volume features short stories from a number of notable genre names, including L. Marie Adeline (“S.E.C.R.E.T.” trilogy) and Tiffany ­Reisz (“The Original Sinners” series). Bussel makes a point in the introduction to emphasize that all 21 selections were chosen for their strong depictions of nuanced, intelligent female characters with whom readers should identify, offering erotica that titillates while it “respects your mind.” The book lives up to that promise, opening with Tara Betts’s poetic “A New Canvas,” in which friends Angela and Troy redraw the lines of their relationship using their bodies for their canvas. Some pieces set a slow burn (a longtime work crush blossoms into something much more when Ivy meets her boss Lennon at a kink party in Reisz’s “The Assistant”), while others jump right into the action, such as Doriana Chase’s wry “Scents & Sexuality,” wherein Chase’s unnamed protagonist finds her senses kicked into high gear by the aroma of hot, hardworking gardener Jax. VERDICT With plenty of creative scenarios, styles, and positions, this impressive anthology is sure to be a hit among quality erotica fans.

BDSM WRITERS’ CON

Shows Growth, Expands to West Coast

Charley Ferrer was in high spirits when discussing last year’s BDSM Writers’ Con, which took place August 20–23. “There were about 50 more attendees,” she said, which is impressive considering the conference’s reliance on word of mouth.

The Con experienced growth in all areas this year, with more vendors, more sponsors, and more support from publishers, as demonstrated by the increased number of publishing panels. While last year’s event had proposed Author and Lifestyle tracks, this year Ferrer seemed eager to “blend” participants and encouraged mingling as a means of forging an open, safe community.

Mark Coker, founder of indie author platform Smashwords, presented on two panels: one focusing on effective self-publishing steps and the other addressing current mainstream publishing trends.

With both published erotica and the concept of self-pub on the rise, Ferrer cited the push for such workshops as “giving authors more of what they need…to publish in this genre.”

Golden Flogger Award

Increased publisher support also led to the goldenfloggeraward.jpg123115introduction of the BDSM Writers’ Con Golden Flogger Award and Ceremony, during which authors were recognized for excellent stories falling under a series of BDSM subgenres.

Though the 2016 awards didn’t officially open until December, Ferrer said they had already received an influx of entries and were expecting double the 188 submissions of last year. Judges come from a mix of backgrounds and locations, but all identify as members of the BDSM lifestyle, as authors, or both.

Along with the judges, Ferrer reads every book that comes through, careful to hold the titles to a criteria of strong writing and accurate lifestyle depiction. “It’s so easy to tell who’s done their research and who hasn’t. We’re trying to teach you what [BDSM] is, not glorify what it’s not.”

Exemplifying strong, realistic BDSM erotica is crucial to Ferrer’s goal to “lessen misinformation,” to educate, and thereby reduce harmful depictions of the BDSM lifestyle that contribute to a very real widespread stigma.

Ferrer is proud of the Con’s second published anthology, a collection of nine stories considered the very best of the Golden Flogger submissions (LJ 10/1/15).

As part of the “[participants] talk, we listen” strategy adopted around conference programming, the book is separated into three “levels” of BDSM, so readers can jump to material with which they’re most comfortable. Ferrer even created an independent publishing channel in order to publish the anthology without limits or censorship. This venture will also serve as an opportunity for attending writers to publish future works without limitation affecting their sales and with the benefit of higher royalties. Indeed, according to Ferrer, nearly all writers have published at least one book since attending the conference.

Raising Awareness

The conference’s growth is perhaps no better reflected than in its inaugural West Coast counterpart—a BDSM Writers Con located in Everett, WA, is slated for March 2016. Though on opposing coasts, the event is guaranteed to attract familiar faces (the conference currently has an 80 percent retention rate), and Ferrer promises to have “something special for each,” with workshops and panels providing distinct yet equally enjoyable and educational experiences. The West Coast forum also boasts its first BDSM Writers’ Ball and numerous collaborations with the local kink community.

With all the talk of expansion, there was a component Ferrer felt could use improvement—the BDSM Book Fair, typically held the last day of the Con. Though the fair is open to the public, hotel conference room locales aren’t ideal for garnering curious passers-by, making the main challenge, “How do we get the general public to know we’re here?” The abundance of self-published authors with their own inventory offers little appeal to bookstores and other public event spaces.

Still, Ferrer is pleased with the Con’s upward trajectory: “As we expand, we create more ways for participants to interact with each other.”

Ashleigh Williams is a New York–based freelance writer

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Share