Tag Archives: sensuality

Book Review: The Sweetest Kiss

Cleis Press sent me a couple of books to review recently. I was hoping to get The Sweetest Kiss: Ravishing Vampire Erotica read and reviewed by Hallowe’en but I received the book too close to the date.  This review will be posted over two days as it is far too long for one posting.

The two things you can expect from a title like this is that the stories will be erotic and vampires will be involved. Other than that, who knows, but because it’s erotica instead of horror I would expect few people to die as that is sometimes counterproductive to erotic thoughts. If this was erotic horror, well there could be more deaths by alluring vampires. And that’s permanent deaths, not the ones that turn a human into a vampire.

sweetest-kiss-cover Edited by D.L. King, I was a little surprised to see there was no introduction. Perhaps it  was thought that the title covered it all but there may be a premise attached: is it present day or past, are vampires hidden or known about, do they all follow a certain vampire trope (turn into bats, no reflection in mirrors, crosses burn, garlic bad, etc.)? I’m one of those people who tend to read introductions to most books, possibly because I am a writer. As it was, I’d say that the vampires are fairly classic though there is variation on powers from story to story and most take place in the last two centuries.

There are nineteen stories but only two by men well established in the field. There are so many erotic writers that I’m certainly no expert on them all but Thomas Roche and Maxim Jakubowski have long standing reputations. There is only story that is homosexual (lesbian), and another that could be. Again, perhaps this was the thrust of this particular anthology, a mostly hetero anthology for the straight people. It’s common for publishers to market to certain demographics. As I began to read I found, that like foreplay, the first two stories built in sensuality to the full on sexual bite of the third.

The book opens with “Midnight at Sheremetyeo” by Remittance Girl. It is a simple tale, not really new in plot, of a vampire who breaks the rules that keep them from being hunted down. She takes a very tasty boy sexually and for feeding. The tale is  succulently worded.

Thoma Roche’s “Wait Until Dark, Montresor” oozes with atmosphere and reminds me of Tanith Lee though I’m not sure if that’s the style or the character herself, a vampire who writes erotic vampire mysteries. Perhaps a bit of both. Second person is hard to do successfully, but it works in this cautionary tale, vividly describing the idolization of a vampire and famous author. A mystery is strung out nicely with a slow reveal as opposed to a sudden bite in the dark.

“The Temptation of Mlle. Marielle Doucette” by  Anna Black is the first period piece set during the French Revolution. The thing about the longevity of vampires is that a certain timelessness can enter stories. The young Marielle must choose between her beliefs, execution and revenge through a repulsive (to her) yet strangely alluring temptation. This tale has the first truly descriptive sex scene though it is strangely lacking in other details.

Lisette Ashton’s “Kiss and Make Up” has the actual Dracula and his girlfriend who have picked up/made a new vampire boy of their own but it’s for a game of turnabout. Dracula absorbs the personality of the person he drinks so he gets kind of a high or in this case, a philosophical bent on the world. Interesting take but there are some awkward euphemisms for sex like,  “His length sputtered and pulsed.” Yowch.

Sommer Marsden manages a short pithy, hot and erotic story in “The Student.” Although not that original a tale with a college student (there are a few in this book) who is too sassy to take anyone’s warnings of dread about an old house, her actions bring about a truly erotic sensuality  in a reluctant encounter.

One of my abolute favorites in the anthology was “Red By Any Other Name” by Kathleen Bradean. A woman who is a dom tries to bring a vampire to submission. But is he truly feeling it or playing at it and can she truly be a dom without succumbing to her own fear? The tension is twofold, with fear and eroticism. The vampire chants words for red that echo in her head: Strawberry, cherry, candy-apple. It is well done and memorable with vividly excellent writing.

The most ephemeral or spiritual piece in the book is “Enlightenment.” Amber Hipple’s story has no real time or place and almost no corporeality with the ebony black man/vampire(?) referred to as “my dream, my mystery” and her intent seems to be that it remain untethered and dreamlike. There is little to really say vampire here except in the changing into smoke but there are undertones of the Eros and Psyche myth here that fit very well.

“Blood and Bootleg” takes place in 1922 Connecticut and it’s hard to tell if the language fits but it’s good enough not to jar. Teresa Noelle Roberts’ use of language feels a bit awkward with the woman thinking “yikes” when she’s bitten. Even for the period that seems a bit…light, especially when the vampire is then described as ripping out her throat, which makes me think of huge chunks of flesh and bloody gore spattering everywhere. Not particularly erotic biting. Overall, though, the eroticism is good.

G.B. Kensington does a deft turn with a human who takes the vampire when he thinks he’s taking her. This vampire uses sex to lessen his blood hunger. This is a common enough thread through the book where tying the eroticism and the bloodlust together cannot be missed. Will the vampire lose control and will it be the little death or the big death? “Fair Play” has a good build up of emotion, pent-up hunger and lust.

The rest of the review tomorrow.

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Fashion and Discipline

Back in the bloom of my youth I went to a typical high school and dressed like a typical teenager. That involved a lot of jeans and T-shirts. Alberta had a junior high school system as well, which covered grades 7-9. It was fairly conservative and run by a principal reviled by most, Archie Wilcox. He was known for being draconian and supposedly had influence in getting his job through a brother on the school board. He was so nasty that at one time his tires were slashed and this was in a day before people were carrying guns or even knives at school. And when he started having an affair with one of the teachers and all of the students knew about it, we laughed at him. He was not loved at all. One day he was addressing the class in his lover’s classroom and his fly was undone so we all snickered at him. He nearly blew a gasket, not knowing what we laughed at.

In this stalag (Simon Fraser Junior High) we were not allowed to wear jeans and one day my homeroom science teacher said, “I need to talk to you about your jeans.” I heard, “I need to talk to you about your genes,” and looked at him confused until he elaborated. I was wearing a pair of light blue not quite jeany material but the cut was too jean like. So I was told I needed to change.

Our homeroom in grade 9 had a rep for being bad and unruly. I’m not sure why but we were definitely feisty (maybe it was one of our boys who slashed Wilcox’s tires). One day I was going down the hall, looking back over my shoulder, and ran into the doughy bosom of Mrs. Acton. She, like Wilcox, was old school, and was his right hand man from what I recall. She wore her hair in a bun, seemed always old and was built  like a battle tank matron.

She looked me over from the sharp edge of her glasses and told me to go see the principal about my top. It was what we called a pop top, sleeveless, and short. It showed about an inch of my midriff. So I went to the principal’s office where he told me I was not conforming to the dress code (or something…I don’t quite remember). I do remember saying back to him, “But this doesn’t affect our learning any,” and I repeated it, unrepentant. Wilcox bubbled a bit and I remained adamant. So I was sent home to change.

I wasn’t as knowledgeable or set in my opinions as perhaps I am now (though I like to think I’m always listening to the other side). Home was a 20-minute walk each way. I arrived home and told my mother what had happened. She agreed with me that my dress didn’t affect my learning but she made me change anyways. So grumpily I complied. (The part of this that may have also influenced her was that my sister had had problems with Wilcox–due to illnesses, I think, and my younger brother transferred to another school because of this principal. He was definitely not someone my family cared to associate with.)

In later years, I thought maybe the instructors were worried about the boys not learning if they were staring at girls in midriff tops. The truth is, that as teenagers everyone is trying on and forming their personalities and sexuality. Girls will show off their bodies if they can. People will wear what they consider sexy, especially if they’re trying to attract the opposite sex.

Now I’ve heard that some schools have banned T-shirts that portray slogans. To make it fair, they ban all slogans to be sure the racist or bigoted ones are gone too. Some ban certain tops, or jeans so low they show the butt crack or underwear, or skirts so high they show the butt. Will it affect learning in general? No. I’m all for banning racist, prejudiced and bigoted comments from a learning environment. Teenagers also like to push boundaries, theirs and others. But what about the clothing  now that I’m no longer constricted to wear, or not wear by teenagerhood, school and all that entails?

Well, I work and I’ve almost always worked where the dress code was lax (or been self-employed). When I worked in a department store we weren’t allowed to wear jeans or dresses that showed our arms (I don’t think that part lasted long). Most places, unless they’re dealing a lot with the public, don’t care if you were jeans, shorts, skirts or T-shirts as long as they’re clean, not so old they’re scruffy and torn, and decent. Decent usually means no short shorts and no bellies showing. Some places may required little to no cleavage showing. It varies depending on the profession.

But as to schools and teenagers…well, they’ve never been the epitomes of fashion. Not that some people ever grow up to have a fashion sense. Teenagers are great experimenters in all aspects of their lives. With their individualism comes trying on everything from attitude to clothing. Too many, I think fall to peer pressure but some go their own way. And should some aspects of their clothing be banned? Well, they should probably remain decent but decency in dress has to be defined. Is a skirt two inches below the butt indecent or okay? Is a top showing some cleavage or a navel fine? Fashion and styles have changed (and come around again) from when I was a teenager, but not that much.

Some of the issues are still the same. The conservative people and administrators will still see certain fashion items as wrong, slovenly or indecent. My mother always equated jeans to working on farms because it was only farmers who wore them when she was growing up.

Granted times have changed and these days there are more and more cases of guns in schools (remember I’m talking mostly Canada here–gun mileage in your area may vary) so the range of what is acceptable may have changed with more “worldly” attitudes, but I think as long as the essentials are covered, in all positions (such as bending over or walking up the stairs in a short short skirt), then teenagers should be allowed the freedom to find themselves and experiment.

Of course, I don’t have kids. I could be singing a different tune if I did.

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