Women Pursuing Their Goals, In & Out of the Bedroom | Erotica Reviews

Wonder Women This month’s column highlights women pursuing their goals, particularly those of the bedroom variety. The third Cleis volume of Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, showcases women reclaiming their sexual agency in myriad wonderful ways: learning to navigate sex after trauma; embracing sexuality in the “golden years”; and owning one’s identity as a kinkster with a disability. Another Cleis anthology, D.L. King’s Unspeakably Erotic, embraces women loving women through kinks that straddle the line of decadent and dangerous. In Tara Sue Me’s Headmaster, Mariela has been struggling to come to terms with best friend Winnie’s tragic death three years ago. To make matters worse, she yearns for the broken partner Winnie left behind: striking Dominant Lennox MacLure. Whipsmart private investigator Scarlet Drake never lets up on a case but finds her priorities skewed by the ruggedly charming Vandenberg brothers in Calista Fox’s action-packed The Billionaires: The Stepbrothers. Hardworking June Bell teaches her farm boy first love a few lessons in business and in pleasure in Meredith Wild’s Misadventures of a Virgin, while Lauren Rowe’s Misadventures on the Night Shift has buttoned-up Abby Medford letting “her freak flag fly” after giving rakish rock star Lucas Ford a piece of her mind.

redstarBest Women’s Erotica of the Year. Vol. 3. Cleis. Dec. 2017. 272p. ed. by Rachel Kramer Bussel. ISBN 9781627782241. pap. $16.95. EROTICA

Editor Bussel (The Big Book of Orgasms) has curated a variety of quality stories with care and intention, highlighting women reclaiming their agency through erotic experiences. This collection opens with Abigail Barnette’s playfully steamy “The Birthday Gift,” wherein Sophie presents husband Neil with a wickedly unconventional visual treat. Wickedness is also the word of the day in Sommer Marsden’s “Demon Purse,” in which an adventurous makeup artist uses her skills to indulge her boyfriend’s sinful fantasy. B.B. Sanchez crafts a fun seasonal offering: a costumed couple take their relationship to the next level with a Halloween quickie in “Guyliner and Garters.” With such a strong ­assortment of entries, there are still some sexy standouts. In Rachel Woe’s “Weightless,” it takes cautious Zoe a new house, a gorgeous friend, and a “big chop” to release the pain of her broken engagement, while Aya de Leon’s poignant “After the Heist” starts with lesbian thieves and ends with the lovers revisiting difficult pasts. Annabel Joseph’s concluding piece, “Making It Feel Right,” is a beautifully brief exploration of power and vulnerability, in which a switch-up with a hired Dom helps Myra awaken her long-dormant BDSM desires. Though erotic and explicit in theme, this anthology touches upon topics such as childhood trauma and dating with a disability, emphasizing that sex can have a serious side. VERDICT A stellar compilation that upholds the high standards of its predecessors. Highly recommended for all erotica collections.

Fox, Calista. The Billionaires: The Stepbrothers. Griffin: St. Martin’s. (Lover’s Triangle). Dec. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781250096449. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250096456. EROTICA

Cunning thrill-seeker Scarlet Drake was born to snoop. As a successful private investigator, she is used to solving insurance fraud and unlocking mysteries—until she butts heads with gruff tycoon Michael Vandenberg, the prime suspect in the theft of his own father’s expensive art collection. Scarlet tries her best to resist the call of this “Big Bad Wolf,” who is having his own troubles playing coy with such an inquisitive woman on his trail. And neither expect their flaming chemistry to be fanned by the arrival of a third party: Michael’s stepbrother Sam. As the trio explore a new life of passion and vulnerability, danger appears in the form of conflicting alibis and dark family secrets. Things take a turn when Scarlet digs deeper, opening old wounds that threaten to shake their new relationship and the Vandenberg empire to its core. Fox (The Billionaires: The Bosses) delivers a sexy tale filled with drama, intrigue, and threesomes. Boasting a substantial, twisty plot, this book will best suit readers seeking action both in and out of the bedroom. VERDICT Recommended for fans of the author and of erotica served with a side of grit.

Rowe, Lauren. Misadventures on the Night Shift. Waterhouse. (Misadventures). Nov. 2017. 223p. ISBN 9781943893430. $19.99. erotica

Abby Medford has been a fan of sexy rocker Lucas Ford since her teenage years. Having sowed her wild oats and finally settled into the serious student life, the reformed “good girl” works the night shift at a hotel to get in extra studying hours and overcome her dangerously impulsive past. When Lucas walks into her hotel for a marathon writing session, it’s clear the salty rocker needs a serious attitude adjustment, which Abby is surprised to find herself all too willing to oblige. Sparks immediately fly; Abby sizzles with desire to take cocky Lucas down a peg, while Lucas can’t get enough of her no-nonsense persona. When Lucas realizes that “Abby the Ass-Kicker” is just what he needs to get his creative juices flowing, the two enter into an intriguing (albeit far-fetched) agreement that involves play-acting a ­voyeuristic love triangle from his past in the hopes of inspiring Lucas’s next hit song. But when the charade gives way to potential true love, both Abby’s and Lucas’s hearts end up on the line. Best-selling author Rowe’s (Captain; Ball Peen Hammer) vibrant writing is compulsively readable. Readers will applaud Abby’s snappy retorts and refusal to enable Lucas’s entitled nature while rooting for the pair to evolve into a hot, happy partnership. VERDICT A slightly wacky premise that hits the mark with plenty of sensual sparring. For fans of the author and where erotic “rock star” romances are popular.

Sue Me, Tara. Headmaster. Berkley. (Lessons from the Rack, Bk. 2). Jan. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780399584503. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780399584510. EROTICA

This second book in the “Lessons from the Rack” series (after Master Professor) centers on submissive Mariela, dance instructor at the exclusive RACK Academy, and RACK’s anguished owner Lennox MacLure. Since the death of Winnie, Mariela’s best friend and Lennox’s submissive, the two have never been able to reconcile their simmering attraction. Ridden with guilt, Lennox has determined to retire as a Dominant and runs the BDSM school from a cool emotional distance. But ­Mariela knows that the only thing to heal him will be a return to his natural state; with friend (and Master ­Professor protagonist) Andie’s help, she forms a plan of seduction to draw Master MacLure back into dominance and into her arms. Of course, the plan goes awry, but Lennox finds himself gravitating toward the soft-spoken yet spirited dancer all the same, especially amid threats to the academy’s privacy and a life-changing injury. Interspersed are flashbacks and excerpts of Winnie’s journal entries, which serve as an inventive means of creating mystery and shedding light on Lennox and Mariela’s dynamic, both past and present. Sue Me (The Flirtation) has crafted a strong sequel to the first book in the series that addresses grief and guilt as readily as its sizzling D/s relationships. The epilog teases a promising new adventure with another kinky, familiar face. VERDICT Readers will be titillated by Lennox and Mariela’s sensual slow burn and eager for Winnie’s journal to clarify their fractured past. ­Recommended.

Unspeakably Erotic: Lesbian Kink. Cleis. Nov. 2017. 257p. ed. by D.L. King. ISBN 9781627782500. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781627782517. EROTICA

This edgy compilation peruses the wide, wondrous world of far-out fetishes. Editor King boasts a collection that will make readers squirm while they squeal, and these entries follow through. In J. Belle Lamb’s gorgeous introductory piece, “Pygmalion,” playful flirting between Irene and Trixie evolves into a deep night of erotic catharsis involving a Rothko painting and a sleek knife. Reena doesn’t have a “thing” for feet, not really, until devastatingly confident dungeon moderator Elin slips into her massage chair in Sonni de Soto’s “Support Service.” Threesomes and group play are a common theme, making an appearance in the steamy, sun-kissed “Aloha à Trois” by Kathleen Tudor, and Annabeth Leong’s “Simultaneous,” a story of a kinky couple incorporating piercing, bondage, and a trusted friend. Bawdy tales blend seamlessly with gentler ones, including dreamy reverie “Date Night” about a Master/slave couple’s first date by Brey Willows, and Rose P. Lethe’s “Private Party,” wherein a novice to the scene finds that she much prefers her playtime one-on-one. As varied as they are, the entries share an uncanny ability to draw on the erotic appeal of kinks common and less so: feet, knives, pony play, orgasm denial, and much more. Seasoned contributors are sprinkled among newcomers, giving Cleis anthology fans a healthy dose of the fresh and the familiar. VERDICT A welcome, raucous departure from bland erotic fare. Highly recommended for readers seeking sexy stories with bite.

Wild, Meredith. Misadventures of a Virgin. Waterhouse. (Misadventures). Nov. 2017. 173p. ISBN 9781947222427. $12.99. EROTICA

June Bell has spent her whole life in the majestic mountainside town of Falls Edge, helping her father run his prestigious hotel after her mother’s untimely death. She isn’t prepared for the return of fit farm boy Kase McCasker, childhood sweetheart and son of her father’s lifelong rival, but she knows that her skills of persuasion could bring about the McCasker land purchase for which her father is so desperate. To June’s surprise, Kase takes to her plan and runs with it, inviting her to his farm for two weeks to “seal the deal” on the land, among other things that were left unfinished between them. As the pair make up for lost time and sink more helplessly in love, a long-buried secret about June’s mother shatters their personal and professional plans. Though some passages border on melodrama, patient readers will be rewarded with an engaging tale of first times and forever love. VERDICT This latest from Wild (Hardpressed) is a sugary sweet erotic romance perfect for those who crave happy endings.

Ashleigh Williams is Editorial Assistant, School Library Journal

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