Oh super. More frat boys. Just what the world needed.
Okay, that sounds harsh ' and I suppose there's some bitter in there, too ' but in the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that my own personal experiences with a frat were anything but erotic. Frustrating, discouraging, and outright mean would be closer to the truth. It will likely surprise no one that in the long run I didn't end up in a frat ' though to be fair I made some good friends in the process. But when I got a copy of Frat Boys, I cringed. To me, frat boys are about as sexy as Big-C Conservatives (which are Canada's answer to the republicans).
Now, I've definitely been one to have my preconceptions slapped around before, so I opened the book ' and tried to do the same with my mind ' and delved in.
First story? Jeff Mann.
There's nothing like finding a story from Jeff Mann to make me sit up and pay attention. If you haven't read Fog ' his most recent erotic novel ' I insist you stop reading this review and go order it somewhere first. I'll wait here.
Ordered? Okay, good.
That novel you just ordered is full of Mann's astounding ability to pull erotica from violence, bondage, or the edge of things usually left to the realms of fear and pain. So imagine my surprise when I read his story, 'Blue Briefs,' and found myself suffering from a bittersweet heartache and the sniffles. It was the perfect way to lead off the anthology ' a story that brought me to a place I'd never expect to end up in an anthology about frat boys: somewhere bittersweet (after a brief stopover in the world of sublimely sweaty and hairy bondage, of course). The ending was startlingly unexpected, and all the better for it.
As was the collection. It's in these surprisingly fresh tales that Allison's anthology shines.
Gavin Atlas brings forth another of his trademark style: a tale of an insatiable bottom who struggles with how he enjoys the humiliation and dominance of his frat brothers in 'The Laius League.' This is another story where I wasn't sure where the author was taking me, and even though I know and love Gavin Atlas stories, I didn't quite see the ending coming. Again, that's a good thing.
Rachel Kramer Bussel's 'Stripped' was another great story ' a pledge colliding with a she-male stripper that the frat has hired mostly to humiliate him, and the dawning self-worth and self-realization that the meeting inspires. I loved this story, not the least of which for turning the usual frat boy tale on its head and slapping it around with some gender fluidity. Thank you Rachel Kramer Bussel.
That said, there are also some well-written stories that delve in the more typical arenas of the frat boy trope. Hank Edwards gives us 'Old Glory' ' named for a glory hole 'stall' the frat has set up in the basement where the guys bring their very drunk ladies for some through-the-hole pleasure. That the young man in the tale ends up inside the booth is no surprise, but the story itself teases in just the right ways. C.C. Williams steps outside the frat for his main character, Noah, who has been watching frat boy Jerry from afar in 'The Pickup Game.' The sparks ' and the meddling of Noah's friends ' had a genuineness to them that was charming. 'Lessons in the Library' by Rick Archer tells us the story of a young man who came out ' and the fallout was terrible from the frat he was pledging ' and how the scars might heal. 'Lessons' showed a more plausible side, from my experiences, and I appreciated its inclusion.
All this to say that I was surprised ' pleasantly surprised ' by Frat Boys. There are some very original ideas in the book, and even those stories that aren't exploring new ideas are told with verve and definitely sizzle. For the Jeff Mann-Gavin Atlas-Rachel Kramer Bussel trifecta alone, this anthology is a worthy grab, but the rest of the tales aren't filler, either. It's a sexy book, with some great surprises, and an overall variation to the theme that keeps it from being just another collection alongside Daddies, Jocks, and Twinks.
And when you're done, you've already got Fog on order, too.