(This review was originally written and posted elsewhere in October 2010.)
Exemplary erotica anthology.
Editor Lisabet Sarai has set a high bar for these authors to clear, and, for the most part, they have done so. (Two of the stories didn't grab me, but that's because I had qualms with their stylistic choices and tones; that said, I still appreciated why Sarai included these distinct stories in this collection.)
There are so many wonderful works in this anthology that I set my standout stories bar higher than usual.
If you only own a few erotic anthologies in your life, make this one of them. All of these stories are worthwhile reads.
"Because I Could" - Daina Blue: A Death Row inmate (Donald B. Camrooney) writes about the crime that landed him in prison. Brutal, dark, remorseless.
"What Was Lost" - Robert Buckley: Janet, a young woman, establishes a brief but oddly erotic relationship with a decrepit old man (Mr. Havilland) with a wild outlaw past. Intriguing, sympathetic, off-beat, with interesting characters and an eye on early twentieth century history.
"Newborn" - Ann Regentin: A forensics bone specialist, Martina, makes new discoveries about the world and herself in a war-torn Guatemalan village. Troubling, wise and ultimately uplifting work.
"Ghosts of Christmas Past" - Richard V. Rainment: Initially romantic X-mas tale with an effective mood morph at the end.
"Butoh-ka" - remittance girl: In Saigon, a woman (Sara) learns a new, borderline-bizarre way to dance, with help from her instructor (Kaoru). Not your usual "dance as a metaphor for sex/life" clichéd piece, this, "Butoh-ka" reaches into disturbing, gripping emotional territory that put me in a similar mindset of one of my all-time favorite novels, Kenzo Kitakata's Winter Sleep -- intuitive, beyond-words transcendant.
"Junkie" - Jaelyn: Short, sharp tale a nameless woman whose sudden, violent sex with a rough lover (Terry) hook her. Shattering depiction of addiction.
"Absences" - Chris Skilbeck: In a broken-society future, a man (James), his coma-prone wife (Petra) and her sister (Donna) deal with life- and society-changing realities. Longer than most of the stories in this anthology, it's complex, truly original and comparatively epic, echoing the best work of bigger-name science fiction writers.
"Secondhand" - Chris Bridges: Martha, a woman with psychometric abilites - she's "able to the history of a thing by touching it" - goes lingerie shopping in a thrift store, a visit that makes a bigger-than-expected impact on her. Original with a dramatic finish.
"A Man in a Kilt" - Helen E.H. Madden: In Scotland, a Dom (Nan) teaches her Scottish bottom (Jimmy) the difference between want and need. Romantic, in a BDSM way; distinct work.
"Color Less Ordinary" - Sydney Beier: A lipstick shade - "Garnet Chrome" - acelerates a pick-up that takes a surprising, delightful corkscrew. Light, fun.
"The Bookseller's Dream" - Seneca Mayfair: This bookstore fantasy is hot, smart and romantic.
"Avril's Name" - Thomas S. Roche: Sad, lovely, visually-intense tale of love and tattoo ink.
"Tears Fall On Me" - Sydney Durham: An emotionally twisty affair leads to something deeper -- and, for a time, darker -- for two lovers. Enchanting, loving work.
"Challenger Deep" - Kathleen Bradean: While fulfilling her deceased father's last wishes, a woman (Erica) begins to actualize some wishes of her own. Tropical and character-resonant story.
"Up in the Morning" - Mike Kimera: First-person point-of-view acount of male desire in married middle age, and its situational changes. Romantic, smart-minded and protagonist-progressive.
"Black Widow" - Seneca Mayfair: A husband-killer prepares to strike again. Striking, noiresque flasher.
"What Is Thy Name?" - Teresa Lamai: A woman decides between her divine amour, who may or may not be real, and the world's notion of sanity. Biblical, dark, original flasher.
"The Rigby Legacy" - Rose B. Thorny: Sex and revenge flasher, effective with its great finish line.
"Veronica's Knickers" - Julius: The funny exit sentence is a cherry to an effervescent, romantic flasher.
"The Question" - Jude Mason: Solid set-up, hilarious and wicked ending to this 100-word story.