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Agony/Ecstasy: 21 Stories of Agonizing Pleasure

3.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  112 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews

All new stories of punishing extremes and unbearable pleasure...

With historical, contemporary, and futuristic backdrops, this outrageously diverse collection of original stories explores every conceivable variation of BDSM erotica--from knitting circles to the Titanic to a retelling of The Little Mermaid. Featuring all-new stories by Meljean Brook, Jean Johnson, Bettie

Paperback, 448 pages
Published December 6th 2011 by Berkley
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 583)
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Of all the reviews I write, anthologies are the hardest nut to crack. When the anthology is one of numerous short stories, rather than a handful of novellas, the task grows even more difficult. When you're working with stories that are a mere 20 pages in length, how do you review them without giving away all the details?

Since this is a genre collection, rather than a literary one, there's not a ton to talk about thematically. The authors' goals were to entertain, not enlighten. So I'd suppose my
Mandi Schreiner
Dec 06, 2011 Mandi Schreiner rated it really liked it
Shelves: erotic, bdsm, anthology
The Agony/Ecstasy anthology is made up of “11 stories of agonizing pleasure and 10 stories of exquisite pain.” I was hesitant to read this, because I’m not huge on anthologies to begin with and I thought 21 very short stories would not be for me. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed them. Many are edgy and all are erotic. I decided to give my brief thoughts on each one.

On the Agony side:

Transfixed/Transformed by Anne Calhoun – One of the main reasons I picked up this anthology is
Jane Stewart
Dec 13, 2011 Jane Stewart rated it it was ok
Shelves: erotica
There were some good stories started, but they needed more development. More frustrating than entertaining.

I rarely buy anthologies because most are not as satisfying as full size novels. I took a chance on this one. Sadly I was disappointed. There are 21 stories by 20 different authors. Each story is about 20 pages long. Because they were so short, something was missing from all of them. The least satisfying were those with unfinished endings, not knowing what would happen with the couples. Som
Callie Croix
Dec 07, 2011 Callie Croix rated it really liked it
Note: I've only read the stories by Anne Calhoun in this anthology, because she's one of my very favorite erotic romance authors.

Transfixed: 3.5 stars
It's a short story, so it's no easy feat for an author to write a cohesive work in such a tight word count. As always Ms. Calhoun's writing style is purely hypnotic. There's a rhythm to her words, an underlying poetry that enchants me every time I read her work. Each word is like sampling a delicious morsel from a five star restaurant.

The only re
Anne Dirty Girls' Good Books
I wasn't sure whether to give this one 4 or 5 stars, but in the end I decided to go with 5, because the ones I enjoyed I REALLY enjoyed, and for the most part the ones I didn't like weren't so much bad as they were just not to my taste.

As I read I took notes to have a mini book club type phone call with my sister when she's done reading it. I thought I'd post my notes here. I read the book a story or two at a time over the course of week.

My overall favs:
Safeword by Delphine Dryden
Wicked Wedding
Beth Brickell
Dec 19, 2011 Beth Brickell rated it liked it
Shelves: exotic-erotica
Just a little something to read on a cold, rainy night to get you in the adventerous one, to say the least. Many erotic short stories with an S&M twist. Some stories more explicit than others. Nothing too hard-core, in my opinion. I did learn a couple of new tricks. I would recommend this book!
Jan 17, 2012 Keitha rated it it was ok
As always with any anthology you're going to have some winners and some duds, this didnt' stray too far from the formula.
Jul 23, 2013 Kaetrin rated it liked it
3.5 stars.

Why I read it: Sometimes, I'm in the mood for a short story, kind of like a sorbet. I'd had this on my TBR for some time, having bought it ages ago, and I decided to intersperse the stories with my other reading.

What worked for me (and what didn't):


Transfixed and Transformed, the two stories by Anne Calhoun in the anthology (one each in Agony and Ecstasy) were about the same pairing, one from her POV, one from his. I liked these stories very much and could happily have read a wh
Feb 20, 2013 Janet rated it liked it
My February 2013 TBR--it took me over a year to sort out my thoughts and get them down.

Let me start by putting my premises on the table. The Story of O was many a decade in the past. Anne Calhoun’s What She Needs was a gentle segue into erotic, followed by Carrie’s Story by Molly Weatherfield (perhaps better known as Pam Rosenthal), and lastly, Second Chances by Lauren Dane. To provide some points of reference.

On the other hand, I can read and understand just about everything that comes across m
May 14, 2012 Searock marked it as got-distracted-but-wanna-finish  ·  review of another edition
Can't give a rating for this one yet. I bought it mainly to read the Anne Calhoun stories.
(she is an author goddess and I must read everything she writes)
My comments below are about her contribution to the anthology.

"Transfixed" (Agony) and "Transformed" (Ecstacy), are each wonderful in their own right. The former is haunting and rhythmic while the latter feels like an artistic study in metaphor. Both were captivating. The stories are 9 and 10 pages respectively.

In "Transfixed", the reader disc
Erica Singleton
Jan 09, 2013 Erica Singleton rated it liked it
Twenty-one stories, edited by Jane Litte, of intimacy, pleasure, excitement and discovery rolled into two volumes simply titled, "Agony/Ecstasy." I loved some of these stories; they caught me off guard with their simplicity or with the original spin they took on a well known theme. And other stories just didn't do it for me at all, or disappointed me outright, because I expected more from the author. I truly enjoyed ten stories from this double feature. Five weren't bad, and six I could have ski ...more
Dec 08, 2011 Nicole rated it liked it
Joint Review originally posted here and here: and

Transfixed – Anne Calhoun
E: Ms Calhoun provided exquisite detail that doesn’t just focus on the physical but draws the reader into the story. I wanted to know the why behind the characters’ motivation. I loved how neither one really fit into the common stereotypes of leather, whips, and chins. I also really enjoyed how it was private not in a “club” with observers. B
Patti TheLoveJunkee
I'm just going to jump right in to my thoughts on this one:
I'm not usually a fan of anthologies, so I was a bit hesitant to read this, but I ended up really enjoying it. I like reading BDSM if it's not too over-the-top, and these stories were just the right speed for me. It's kind of silly, but I thought it was very cool that the book had two sides - you read the Agony side, then flipped it over for the Ecstasy stories.

My favorite story (actually two) was Transfixed (on the Agony side) by Anne C
Apr 01, 2016 Serena rated it really liked it

Calhoun, Anne - Transfixed *****
Johnson, Jean - the Sybil *****
Coi, JK - Caged ****
Sharpe, Bettie - Each Step Sublime *****
Dryden, Delphine - Safeword ****
Simonds, AL - Stitch and Bitch ***
Clare, Jessica - Bachelorette Party ****
Rowe, Margaret - Wicked Wedding Night *****
Harris, Edie - Shameless ****
Lange, Rebecca - Taken ****
Moraine, Sunny - Wetwire ***


Calhoun, Anne - Transformed *****
Brook, Meljean - Rescue Me ****
Evers, Shoshanna - the Wooden Pony ****
Daniels, Lily - Kiss of Lif
May 12, 2012 Dhfan4life rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads-read
First off have to say that I won this book through the GR giveaways last year. And was really surprised when I first won it as I entered last minute. But with that said I have to say I really enjoyed reading both the Agony and the Ecstasy sides of this book. I'll admit that there were some storeis that weren't exactly my cup of tea and dealt with the love interests actually fighting each other and pain in that way. But I still liked that the agony was expressed in different ways than just one. T ...more
I really hate eating anthologies. Some of these stories were really great (I would totally read a novel that picks up where Caged left off) and some where just meh. Overall, I think the good outweighed the bad.
CoffeeTimeRomance andMore
Feb 25, 2012 CoffeeTimeRomance andMore rated it really liked it
Shelves: erotica
Each one of these authors pulls you into their characters lives, and holds you captive through every kiss and caress. The link between pleasure and pain is a common theme throughout these stories, but each has its own unique voice. With the kiss of a whip and a scream of passion you are submerged into this world of sensation that I promise you will love as much as I do. There is now a whole new list of authors I want to follow, and I cannot wait to begin.

Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance &
Katherine O'Grady
Jan 22, 2014 Katherine O'Grady rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Really enjoyed this anthology. Short stories w some serious heat and kink. Lots of fav authors featured. Worth buying.

I won a copy of this book from the Dear Author site, run by Jane L.
Dec 10, 2011 Pyxipyro rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This anthology of stories was a great read. The stories were good, short and erotic. I really liked the different styles and ideas in which all the stories were written. Some even added an unexpected tenderness between the characters. I loved the stories from both sides. Some were very edgy but easy to read. I have several new favorites now. After reading the story Each Step Sublime in the Agony section, I don't think i can think of the Little Mermaid again with thinking of this.
Dec 06, 2011 Ellen rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, other
The stories are very quick reads. All of them are very erotic, although not all of them are BDSM. Some of them are very very good (those would be the ones with the corners folded down. :-)

While, as with any anthology, not all of the stories were excellent, enough of them were good to rate 4 stars. I think this is a very good book for people who like erotica and for people who want to spice up their bedroom a little bit.
kc (4saintjude)
Apr 18, 2012 kc (4saintjude) rated it really liked it
Meljean Brooks clever story totally earned the stars. Hands down, it was the best in the collection, her talent can cross into any genre. The others ranged from really bad to ok, but i'd be unlikely to look up the authors, as this genre tends to be too short plot to hold my interest. But bravo to Ms. Litte for nabbing Brooks story.
Mar 06, 2013 Erin rated it did not like it
I wanted to see if this "author" was as good as she must be for tearing down so many other authors over the years. After all those reviews, surely Litte's prose would be mind blowing, eh?

Dry. Emotionless. Meh. That'll teach me to hand over money out of curiosity instead of instinct!
Wendy ~M/M Junkie~
Jun 11, 2013 Wendy ~M/M Junkie~ rated it really liked it
Shelves: zz-first-reads
I really enjoyed this anthology. There were a lot of stories that were excellent and then there were some that were just so-so. Overal this was a great read and I love the sexy cover! I would recommend this book, it is a great way to find some new to you authors.
Jun 24, 2012 Kayla rated it it was ok

Gave this book a chance because it was sent to me as a good reads first read. With all the buzz about 50 shades of grey I thought it would be similar. It wasn't. Underdeveloped and unnecessarily graphic.
Beenee Reads
Jan 21, 2013 Beenee Reads rated it really liked it
Shelves: erotica
I liked most of the stories but some of them were terrible, in my opinion. But there was a little something in the book for everyone, I think, so I hope people will pick up the book and give it a try. Happy reading!
Jun 27, 2012 Natalie is currently reading it
Disappointed in the current popular soft-core bondage fiction, I decided to try something less romance novel and go straight to s&m erotica. This is the book I was expecting. Excellent so far.
Nov 26, 2011 Trish rated it really liked it
Shelves: won
Good bedtime read. Stories only take a couple minutes to read. Very risque. Good book. Thanks for letting me read it.
ms bookjunkie
Some of the stories I liked a lot, others less, but they all got to me on an emotional level.
Dec 31, 2011 Vi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Later, I will go back and list the stories I liked.
May 10, 2012 Sharon rated it liked it
It is ok, not as good as 50 shades.
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