This is all safe for work, don’t worry.
First off, if you haven’t read Cruelty by Ellen Crosháin, go get it and read it! It’s one of my favourite Grimbold books, and while it does have quite a lot of (very well-written) sex in it, it’s nicely integral to the plot and the rest of the book is extremely good – see my full review here. Ellen’s currently writing the sequel, which I’m really looking forward to.
Alison’s Wonderland by Alison Tyler (ed)
I came to Alison Tyler via her website, Trollop With A Laptop, and I’ve previously commented on her brilliant wit. This is an anthology edited by her, and themed around Fairytales – with an erotic twist.
There are twenty-seven stories in the anthology, and they were all good; there wasn’t a single one that I didn’t read and enjoy. However, I obviously had my favourites – I will freely admit that I go for stories with some story element; I like the setting, the characters, the plot. I’m a reader at heart; the background is as important as the action!
That said, the erotica in all of the stories was extremely good; there wasn’t anything badly written, cringeworthy or laughable. As to if it’d turn you on, well, that’s down to your personal taste – but it all certainly has the potential. There’s a nice mix of premise and types, from bondage and domination to mild flirting and lustful glances – plus some more exotic figures straight out of storybooks…
My absolute favourite overall was the last story, The Princess; this excellent 100-word twist on a fairytale (you’ll have to read the anthology to find out which one!) really made me laugh. I also enjoyed Mastering Their Dungeons for its snarky jibes at the Dungeons’n’Dragons crowd, for all that I think the premise isn’t entirely accurate. I thought David was an exceptionally clever take on a vampire story, and was incredibly atmospheric; The Midas F*** was also a very clever take on a classic idea, and I loved the premise of give and take. Wolff’s Tavern was a very well-set and nice mix of storytelling and action with a take on the Red Riding Hood tale, and Gold on Snow is likewise a clever and dramatic take on the Snow White story. The Walking Wheel was the most story-like of the set, with a strand of romance rather than pure erotica (although it doesn’t lack a sex scene…), and Dancing Shoes also has a beautiful streak of romance and heart-tugs running through it; it’s a very sweet story. And Alison’s own story, Rings On My Fingers, lives up to what I know of her writing – it’s a beautifully written story with a different take on the idea of a ring, and works brilliantly well both as a love story and as erotica.
The entire collection is very good, and if you like fairy stories, it’s a nice addition to your bed-time reading shelf. If you want more of Allison, check out Trollop With A Laptop (fairly obviously NSFW, I’d hope!)
Beautiful Losers by Remittance Girl
I first read this as a serialized story on Remittance Girl’s website, but it was never finished. So when I saw she’d published it as a novel, I grabbed it!
I was enjoying this, right up until the last three chapters. And then it just – ends. There’s a major event, and it’s given one brief chapter. I actually did the thing of trying to go forward and then flipping back, checking that I hadn’t missed pages. I wanted maybe one more chapter, one more explanation – there’s so much exploration of feelings and so many changes in this book that I just wanted some closure on what happened next. As an editor, I’m also not sure I agree with the end; it sort-of fits but it also feels like a cop-out, a “I’ve run out of space and need to get this done”. So…unimpressed by that, I think.
Beyond the abruptness of the ending and the feeling of incompleteness that it leaves, this is a good book. The writing, in places, is beautiful – it’s haunting and sensual and stunningly erotic. The sex is always different, never with the same language or same feel; there’s always another aspect explored. The three main characters, Jean, Sebastian and Shiara, are beautifully written, and even though this is through Shiara’s eyes it explores the other two as much as her. There were one or two niggles in the characterisation (what’s the point of having rules if everyone then promptly ignores them and never refers to them again?) but overall, it’s a good story and a very beautiful pieces of erotic writing.
However…I admit, I preferred the serial. It was a shorter format, and while I can see how the plotline has been expanded, I don’t think the story necessarily needed it. I wanted another two or three chapters of the serial, wanted a short story that rounded off what I’d already seen. The extra character interactions and extra sex almost feels unnecessary, as if it doesn’t add anything (beyond one or two key scenes). The scenes are well worth reading if you like stunning writing, but I’d honestly have directed anyone interested to the serial rather than the book.
So…the writing’s amazing, but don’t get the book. Go and have a look at Remittance Girl’s website, and then check out what else she’s got for sale – and let me know what you think!