Tag Archive | erotica

How Not To Fall – Emily Foster

Remember when Fifty Shades of Grey was all the rage? Sure you do.  125 million people bought that piece of crap. (Okay, yes, I read it. But I did not read its sequels. I have standards, people.) Suddenly everyone was reading erotica – loud and proud or behind the more secretive screens of their e-readers.

I love a good smutty book, but the problem with smut is that no two readers will be alike when it comes to what turns them on. Perhaps E.L. James just got lucky. In fandom, which are the loins from which her books sprang, BDSM is as common as sex in the missionary position with the lights off. My objection to the Fifty Shades book(s) had nothing to do with the subject matter (I spent ten years in fandom; I’ve read it all) and everything to do with the quality of the prose and one-dimensional characterization. (It couldn’t be any other way, Edward/Christian and Bella/Anastasia are about as one-note as they come.)

27208942Enter How Not To Fall. Of course I’d seen this book at the book store, but I don’t think I even picked it up to read the blurb. Then I read a review – although I can’t remember where. The reviewer avoided comparisons with Fifty Shades, but did sing the book’s praises. Smart and hot – which is probably a pretty good combination. So, the next time I was at Indigo, I bought the book and now I’ve read it.

Annabelle (Annie) Coffey is a 22-year-old student at a university in Indiana. Dr. Charles Douglas is a 26-year-old postdoctoral fellow in Annie’s psychophysiology lab. He’s British and brilliant and “a dreamboat” and, technically, her teacher.  Annie’s been lusting after him for two years, but as her undergraduate degree draws to a close, she figures it’s about time to take matters into her own hands – so to speak. She tells her roommate and best friend, Margaret, that she is “going to ask Charles to have sex.” She asks, he declines, but Annie is convinced that she hasn’t misread the signals. She tells him

“The thing is, I think you and I have A Thing, and I know if I don’t at least put it on the table, I’ll always wonder ‘what if’ and so I’m just…putting it on the table, you know, and leaving it there. Like bread. For sharing.”

Turns out, Charles does reciprocate Annie’s feelings; he’s just too professional to act on them. So they make a deal – once all her research is in, once there is no possibility of a sex act compromising ethics – they’ll do it. Cue about 200 pages of smut.

Here’s what I really liked about How Not To Fall.

  1. Annie/Charles  Annie is self-deprecating and her narration is charming and often funny.

Am I a beauty queen? I am not. My nose has a great deal of character. My hair has some interesting ideas about its place in the world. My body is built more along the lines of a wristwatch than an hourglass – flat yet bendy. It works for me – I am my body’s biggest fangirl – but I recognize where it falls short of the culturally constructed ideal.

Charles is smart – like brilliant smart – but also kind and, as we learn gradually, a little bit damaged, too. Also, on the hotness scale – according to Annie “it is a mercy to the world that the man doesn’t try to look good.”

2.  The sex is well-written. That’s a big one for me. If I am going to read erotica, I want to read well-written erotica. And since How Not To Fall contains a lot of sex it might have easily gotten boring. You know – geesh, are they going to do it again? I didn’t skim. Actually, overall, the book is well-written.

3. Personally, I kinda loved the way the book ended – although it did break my heart a little. Apparently, there’s a sequel coming out next year. (I will probably read it: see #1.)

I did have a couple little things that irked me. Charles often sounded like a middle-aged man. He called Annie “Young Coffey” a lot. Like he was twenty years her senior rather than four. He also refers to her as “termagant,” a word I was not familiar with, so I had to look it up. It means a “harsh or overbearing woman.”  I couldn’t really make the connection. Also, I don’t have a foot fetish – clearly Charles does. Too much feet/toes for me. These are niggles, because overall, I enjoyed the book for all the reasons one might enjoy a book of this type.

So – if you are looking for a fun, smutty book to pack in your beach bag – give this one a go.

Off the Shelf – February 16, 2015

Listen to the column here

First of all, I don’t really believe in putting books into categories. I don’t believe in book shaming – that is – judging someone for reading something they enjoy just because it doesn’t fit into someone’s preconceived notion of what a person should be reading. So, for example, adults reading Young Adult lit. I read it because I teach teenagers and in order to do that well, I think I have to be on the same page as them (pun intended.) But I also read it because a lot of it is really good.  I guess categorization is useful for finding books – but I always tell students it’s important to read outside their comfort zones every once and a while.

When I think back to my days as a young reader, it was really before such a thing as “Young Adult” literature. You read kids’ books like Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew and then you just graduated to the rest of the books. So, when I stopped buying books from the Scholastic book flyer I graduated to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I can also remember reading my mom’s bodice rippers, books by Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss. Now, of course, young readers have a lot more choice and one of those choices is New Adult.

New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18–25 age bracket. St. Martin’s Press first coined the term in 2009, when they held a special call for “…fiction similar to YA that can be published and marketed as adult—a sort of an ‘older YA’ or ‘new adult‘.”

So – it’s sort of like the protagonists have graduated high school and gone off to college.

Remember being age 18-25? It is a tricky time in the people’s lives – sometimes juggling new responsibilities and freedom is harder than it looks so some of the tropes in new adult fiction include personal issues like anger-management, family difficulties and expectations, abuse, alcohol and drugs and sometimes the plots are soap-opera-esque. Often the narrative is told in the first person. The other thing people will likely notice in NA fiction is that the romantic scenes are just a tad racier than in YA fic – not of course 50 Shades racier, but still.

<insert rant about how crappy 50 Shades is>

OK – I am not a book snob and I read 50 Shades of Grey and laughed hysterically at all the hype it got as the book that revved up the libido of women all over the planet – 100 million copies, people. But that book has a very peculiar pedigree, right – started as fanfiction based on Twilight. So Anastasia is Bella and Christian is Edward. E.L.James wrote as Snowdragonprincess and posted the story in installments on Twilight fansites. Her fans (yep, fanfiction writers have hoards of fans) encouraged her to change the names and publish it as original fiction. My issue isn’t with the content or even that it started as fanfic – my issue is that it’s just BADLY WRITTEN. Here’s my review of the book.

But I digress

If you are interested in checking out some New Adult fiction, here are a couple titles in the genre.

easyEasy  – By Tammara Webber

So Easy is the story of Jacqueline Wallace, a second-year university student who is leaving a frat party and attacked by someone. She’s rescued in the nick of time by Lucas. He’s a Harley driving, pierced and tattooed artist-type who is also smart and awesome. Although their relationship is not without its problems, these are characters readers will fall in love with and root for. There’s a sequel of sorts for Easy, it’s called Breakable and it’s Lucas’s story. I really liked this book.

tentinybreathsTen Tiny Breaths – by K.A. Tucker

I didn’t like this one as much as I liked Easy. Kacey and her kid sister leave Michigan where they’d been living with their aunt and uncle after the death of their parents in a drunk driving accident. Kacey decided it was time to go after her uncle was getting a little too hands n with her little sister. They arrive in Florida where Kacey gets a job and meets Trent, the hot guy next door who has his own dark past. This one was just sort of ‘meh’ for me.

If you are interested in checking out other NA writers here are some of the names to know: Cora Carmack, Colleen Hoover and Jamie McGuire.

I Take You – Nikki Gemmell

tlc tour hostThanks to the folks at TLC, I’m back with another book by Nikki Gemmell. You’ll recall that I took a look at her novel With My Body last month and today I am going to talk about her book I Take You. Beginning with The Bride Stripped Bare, With My Body and I Take You form a trilogy of sorts, although the characters and plots don’t really overlap so each book could be read independently of the others. I Take You

I Take You is the story of Connie Carven, wife to Clifford, a banker who has been seriously injured in a skiing accident and can no longer – erm – perform certain husbandly duties. No matter, Cliff has found other ways to satisfy his wife, most of them involving his Mont Blanc pen and a wicked imagination. At first Connie seems like a willing participant in her husband’s increasingly perverse sexual games, but one night Cliff takes things a teensy bit  (okay, a lot) too far and something in Connie, I don’t want to say snaps – changes.

Truthfully, I didn’t get Connie’s relationship with Cliff. Like, at all. Pre-accident he was  “her American…someone to be laughed at and admired and feared in equal measure.” Cliff is over-the-top rich and Connie “grew quickly addicted to this way of living – loved the sparkly, unthinking splash of it.”

When she tries to explain her relationship with Cliff to her father she says:

“We’re happy , Dad. As we are. I’m his wife and I have a job to do. A very important one. Now more than ever. Only I can help him, only me. I’ve bcome crucial to him in a way that’s impossible to explain.”

We are meant to believe that Cliff’s accident was the impetus for her to fall in love with her husband because “it tipped their sex life into something else. Because Cliff gouged out – patiently, gently, beseechingly – the very marrow of his impenetrable wife. It had been the trigger that now tipped him into something else.”  But the thing is, I don’t see these two as having very much of anything at all except perhaps for a co-dependent relationship and a penchant for kinky sex. And I never saw Cliff as a nurturing, kind man and he can’t kiss worth a damn, apparently.

Then, matters get more complicated when Connie meets Mel – he’s the gardener who takes care of the private communal garden that belongs to the houses on their square. It was at this point that I had a ‘wait a minute’ moment. I Take You was starting to sound suspiciously like another book: D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover.  According to the blurb on the back (which I hadn’t bothered to read) Gemmell was indeed inspired by Lawrence’s infamous book.

Everything you think is going to happen, happens. Mel and Connie start an illicit affair; Cliff gets all bent out of shape about it; Connie chooses personal happiness over marital responsibility.

So how does I Take You compare with the other erotica out there? Well, Gemmel’s writing is still lovely (although I think I might have appreciated this book a bit more if I’d had more of a breather between this one and With My Body.) It’s often quite graphic, so if that’s not your cup of titillation tea – perhaps this isn’t the book for you.

I can’t say I was quite as enamoured with I Take You as I was with With My Body. I may need a little while longer to figure out why Connie’s journey just didn’t resonate with me the way the narrator in With My Body did.

Breaking the Girl by Kim Corum

I’m not going to lie – I enjoyreading erotica. But I have standards, people. And Kim Corum’s ridiculous novella, Breaking the Girl doesn’t meet any of them.

Kristine is a stripper in New Orleans. She didn’t set out to be a stripper. She’d gone on holiday with her friend to escape her recent marital break up and suddenly she and her friend found themselves bumping and grinding on stage at a strip club. The money was good so Kristine – who doesn’t have any other talents besides sex – stuck with it.

Enter Frank. Handsome and rich (although we never find out what he does), he takes a shine to Kristine and invites her to come live with him. Yeah – it really is that simple.

Thus begins her training. To the untrained eye beating someone with a belt until they’re so disoriented they fall down the stairs might be considered abuse, but everything Frank does is for Kristine’s own good.

Breaking the Girl is meant to be a novel about domination and submission. Okay, I’m down with that. But this book just doesn’t have anything to recommend it. The sex was pretty tame (and let’s face it, isn’t that why we read this stuff?), the characters were cardboard cut-outs and Corum tries to add heft to the story with a bunch of hooey about why Frank needs to “break the girl”.

So, so mediocre.

Black Lace Quickies by Various Authors

black-laceBlack Lace Quickies was a gift and who am I to refuse a gift, especially when it comes in book form. Also, I like smutty books. It’s hard, though, to choose someone else’s erotica. Your kinks are not necessarily my kinks.

That said, this slim volume of six stories has something for everyone and the stories are well-written and extremely naughty. The first couple of stories, in particular were well done. In ‘O’, a stewardess has an insatiable desire for sex toys and in ‘Life Boat’, a Greek cruise opens a young girl’s eyes to the erotic world. Both of these stories offered something slightly more than your standard bump and grind.

If you like a little naughty with your well, naughty, this might be the book for you. And at 122 pages, you’ll be finished in lots of time for…other reading. *g*

Wicked Ties by Shayla Black

Everyone looks for something different when they read erotica. (Those of us who actually read erotica – or admit to reading it- that is. *g*) Often times we have to forsake some of our wish list to get other needs (so to speak) met. Shayla Black’s novel Wicked Ties surprised me- in a good way.

Not that the plot actually matters, but the novel tells the story of Morgan O’Malley, host of a cable talk show called ‘Turn Me On’. During the course of research for a show on Dominance and submission she meets Master J aka Jack. Naturally he’s a total stud and although his reputation in the D/s scene is impeccable, what Morgan doesn’t know is that he’s arranged to meet her because of some ridiculous revenge he’s plotted against someone from his past with whom Morgan is connected.

Oh, Morgan’s got a stalker, too. And Jack just happens to be a bodyguard.

Truly- the plot is convoluted and silly and has holes you could drive a truck through. The novel succeeds despite the plot though because Ms. Black writes very good sex scenes. And really, come on, isn’t that why we read erotica?

Jack senses that despite her denials (she’s only doing research, after all), Morgan is really intensely curious about what it would be like to submit to a man. It doesn’t take long for Jack to whisk Morgan off to his isolated cabin in the swamp (for her protection, of course) and start to tutor her on the finer points of being submissive.

Your enjoyment of this book will ultimately depend on whether or not you are interested in this sort of sexual relationship and whether or not you want to read graphic sex scenes. If either of these things intrigue you- you could do far worse than this book.

I found it …um…gratifying.

Men at Work by Denison, Bangs, Davidson

So this book was on the display of books that have been reduced; I can never walk by that display. I always have to buy something. Sometimes I luck out. I found Denise Mina that way. All I can say about Men at Work is that it only cost $4.99- and it was worth about one third of that because the second and third stories were so bad, I couldn’t even finish them.

So, yeah, this book is supposed to be “three sizzling tales of men who are good with their hands.” Okay- what?

If you can believe it, there’s actually a review.

Trust me- if you’re looking for smut I can recommend some great stuff. I can’t recommend this.