~I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.~
There is something so attractive about good erotica. Erotica without punctuation errors, grammatical problems, and above all, tells a decent story. I found that in Cleis Press’s new book, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year (volume 1), edited by author and editor, Rachel Kramer Bussel. However, like any anthology, there were stories that I found enchanting and wanted to fall into, and others I didn’t care for.
Best Women’s Erotica is 22 stories by a variety of authors packed into 207 pages. The stories themselves vary widely. Some are hard, fast, well-written sex from start to finish. Some are a slow dance, and the sex (or at least sexual activity) are almost a footnote in the closing paragraphs. Want sweet romance? It’s in there. Hardcore sex? Sure. BDSM? Yep. Vanilla? You betcha.
The characters themselves are no less diverse. Singles on a hot night out, couples adding spice, groups, mono couples, couples in open relationships, renegade artists, hipsters, escorts, office professionals, theatre actors, cis/hetero people, LGBT folks, doms and subs, childhood crushes come to life.
The inclusiveness of the collection is very well done. The LGBT relationships are not treated any less valid than the hetero relationships. I was relieved to see this when so many erotica stories fetishize those relationships in stories with no real understanding. Likewise, the stories that included people of color brought them to life, when so many other stories use them as tokens or stereotypes.
And the characters aren’t physically perfect. If you are looking for stories of “She had a huge rack and he had a massive dick bellow a six pack,” this is not for you. Or maybe it is, and you would like a tale with a little more realism, like the story of a woman coming to terms with losing her breasts after a battle with cancer, or the deaf woman struggling to remember the sound of her lover’s voice.
My favorite story by far was The Carnalarium by Rose Caraway. It’s the tale of the ending of a relationship between two women: Kendra, deeply loving and seeking stability, and Beth, cursed with too much wanderlust to settle down anywhere for long, regardless of her love for Kendra. The women have a sort of last hurrah at the Carnalarium, a very exclusive BDSM club. During a delightfully kinky and more than a little hot sex scene, they are able to have a bittersweet split, with Kendra able to move on, and Beth acknowledging she needed to let Kendra leave her, not the other way around. Hot, sexy, and strangely heart wrenching. Oomph.
As a have a favorite, I have a least favorite as well. Waiting to Pee by Amy Butcher is a very well-written, detailed story, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. It starts with fascinating, almost voyeuristic, people watching in a public bathroom in a park, standing in line and, well, waiting to pee. It ends with a consensual water sports encounter. Water sports aren’t quite my thing, but moreover, the author goes into such detail about the surroundings–no toilet paper, the general dirtiness, the drunk young woman in the next stall constantly retching while her friends encourage her to just let it out–left me feeling more queasy than turned on. Even still, the detail of the story would make me curious to read other works by the same author. If it’s your thing, it’s very well written, but it wasn’t mine. No judgement.
The only other issue I had with the collection is there are a few stories where it seems like it’s strangers getting together, and they turn out in the last few sentences to be married and just getting their roleplay on. It’s cute, but in my humble opinion, I find that device to be overused in erotic fiction in general
Final thought: This anthology has a little bit of everything, from sweet romance to hard lust, and characters from every walk of life. If you like your erotica to be eclectic, you’ll love this book. New to erotica and not really sure what you like? Read this collection to help you narrow your tastes. It’s well worth it!
~I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.~