**spoiler alert** The short stories of New Order are like the literary equivalent of a relationship – they start out fresh and exciting, challenge you**spoiler alert** The short stories of New Order are like the literary equivalent of a relationship – they start out fresh and exciting, challenge your boundaries and your expectations, and then become a bit . . . well, almost too comfortable, before ultimately delivering on the promise underlying the best relationships.
New Order is a like a first crush, full of discovery, anxious flirting, and spontaneous passion. We’re introduced to a young man who has agreed to accompany his aunt to a recital. All seems pretty straightforward until he mishears ‘pianist’ as ‘penis’ and we begin to wonder about his sexuality. What follows (in very short order) is a powerful crush on the pianist in question, a frantic back alley seduction, and the promise of eventual fulfillment in the pianist’s hotel room.
Oral Fixation is probably the most fun of all the stories here. It’s like a rebound relationship, all about sexual exploration and discovering new boundaries. It’s quick and dirty, brief and intense, with a definite payoff for both participants . . . and a promise of perhaps more to cum.
Tongue-Tied is easily my favourite of all the stories presented here. The supernatural themed fantasy romance is, ironically, our first serious literary relationship. Told from the perspective of a succubus with lesbian leanings, we experience a supernatural, subliminal, secretive courtship of seduction and discovery. The romance of the story is handled beautifully, and the eventual payoff is definitely magical in its fulfillment for both characters.
Status: Married is not at all what you’d expect from the title – it’s a first affair, full of bittersweet memories, leading to rediscovered Sapphic passions. When two old friends meet up again after years apart, it doesn’t take long for long forgotten (and, in one case, buried) schoolgirl passions to be rekindled. The final words are probably some of the sweetest I’ve ever read – "We still aren’t Man & Wife. We don’t need to be: It’s just you & me."
4:Play, our final instalment, is the culmination and realization of the first four stories, a complete relationship played out between could-be, would-be, and should-be lovers. It’s awkward and innocent, and full of fear and confusion. It’s also a story of friendship, love, lust, and the overcoming of boundaries – both physical and emotional. Personally, I found the blog portion of the story a little distracting but, as the modern day equivalent of the classic diary entry, it does propel the narrative to its ultimate, rewarding, feel-good conclusion.
Having never read any of Jess’ work before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I liked it. Even her shortest stories pay off beautifully, and her concluding story makes me wonder what she could accomplish with a full-length novel. All are welcome here, and every sexuality is celebrated. There are no limitations in her New Order, just boundaries to be explored....more
Deviant Ark is one of the most near-perfect reads I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in a very long while. I went into it with such high expectations tDeviant Ark is one of the most near-perfect reads I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying in a very long while. I went into it with such high expectations that I was actually reluctant to begin reading it and risk disappointment. Much to my surprise, it fulfilled all of my expectations, and even presented a few wonderful surprises.
Much of the book revolves around the various conflicts between the ‘straight’ authorities, the ‘deviant’ human resistance, and the equally ‘deviant’ alien refugees of I’leana. In a future where the world has been homogenized under a single government (and a single religion), deviance is simply not tolerated. Gays and lesbians are hunted down, abducted, and forcibly ‘reconditioned,’ a process broadcast on live TV as a form of state-sponsored entertainment. Meanwhile, the dual-gendered alien refugees are mocked as much for their gender as for their blue skin and pointed ears, confined to the worst human slums, and treated like slaves.
While a covert Martian resistance cell does exist, operating as much for political as for sexual reasons, they’re simply incapable of driving the kind of change needed to allow the ‘deviants’ to find acceptance. There’s a sense of hopelessness to their efforts, although you can’t help but admire their perseverance.
What holds the story together and provides us with hope is the budding relationship between Marlene and C'est'a. It’s a wonderfully awkward love affair, with Marlene unsure she can handle being attracted to a woman with a penis, and C’est’a exploring her first feelings for a human. Her parents are divided in their opinions of the relationship and end up presenting Marlene with a challenge to prove herself. It is through this challenge that Marlene not only wins their respect, but takes the first steps towards orchestrating cooperation between the resistance and the I’leana.
If the story has a failing – and it may have been intentional on the part of the author – it’s that morality is so closely tied to sexuality. With one or two minor exceptions, the ‘straight’ population is portrayed as a bastion of cruelty and negativity. Similarly, despite a few rough edges, the ‘deviant’ populations (both human and alien) are almost all portrayed lovingly and positively.
Ultimately, Deviant Ark is a serious science fiction story first, an LGBT romance second, and an erotic romp third. The story starts and ends with well-orchestrated space battles, and the climactic confrontation in the streets between the resistance and the army is as horrific as it is heroic. As for the sex scenes, they’re both inventive and exciting in their intensity. More importantly, the sex plays a key role in the story, exposing the alliances and deceptions upon which the fate of the world rests.
Recommended for anybody with an interest in the human condition . . . and an open mind. ...more
Although there are others involved, this is really the story of Billy, Rebecca, and Hector. It’s the story of three acquaintances, brought together byAlthough there are others involved, this is really the story of Billy, Rebecca, and Hector. It’s the story of three acquaintances, brought together by circumstance, who should have chosen to go their own way, but who made the mistake of exploiting the situation.
Billy is, for lack of a better word, confused. He doesn’t consider himself to be a transvestite, even though he’s enjoyed dressing in the past, and still keeps his body hairless and smooth. He doesn’t consider himself gay, even though he loves providing men with oral pleasure. He is extremely resistant to the idea of receiving anal sex, even though he loves giving it.
Rebecca is, for lack of a better word, disturbed. She’s lost and confused, a little bit crazy, and quite delusional. She thinks nothing of very public moments of sexual exhibition, but is quite prissy when it comes to polite terminology. She talks to people who aren’t there, and imagines a job that is tied to neither time nor place. As we discover, she lost her ‘daddy’ to a heart-attack during their last bout of sex, but has convinced herself that the rotting body is really just sleeping.
Hector is, for lack of a better word, an opportunist. He’s not above using both Billy and Rebecca for his pleasure, whether they want to provide that pleasure or not. He’s a violent young man, but he’s also given to moments of tenderness. When he discovers the truth about Rebecca’s dead ‘daddy’ – and the bags of money scattered about his bedroom – he brings in his gang to seize the opportunity.
The conclusion to this affair is, as you might expect from Mick’s work, rather ugly and messy. There is a very interesting moment when Hector allows his violent façade to slip, enraptured by the sight of Billy in Rebecca’s clothing, but we never get to see where it might lead. By the end of the night, everybody but Billy is dead and, just to add insult to injury, the money is revealed to be counterfeit.
There’s no morality tale here, and no message of hope, although there is a kind of rough justice involved. The only thing we can take away from it is the happines of Billy’s transformation into a Times Square Cutie named Rebecca, and, we assume – or perhaps, just hope - his acceptance of his own sexuality....more
Deadeye is a wildly inventive, darkly erotic tale that’s not afraid to take liberties with transplanting elements of classical mythology to the old WeDeadeye is a wildly inventive, darkly erotic tale that’s not afraid to take liberties with transplanting elements of classical mythology to the old West. While it sounds like an odd combination, the callousness of the Greek gods fits in well with the mentality of a lawless Western town. On top of that, the story makes a convincing case for there being no better place in all the world (or in all of history) for a demonic incubus to take up residence than beneath a town built on gambling, whoring, and the desperate pursuit of one vice after another.
Twice damned by his past deeds, our protagonist is an ex-Roman solider named Vitus who comes to the town of Deadeye carrying centuries of emotional baggage. Although he is very much a frustrated sexual sadist, he’s an appealing character because of the fact that his single-minded pursuit of lust is driven by the purest passion of all – love. When we see him at his darkest, full of rage and vengeance, there’s an element of dangerous sexuality in him that’s entirely too tempting for comfort. Whether it's in the taking of a young man he saves outside of town, or in being taken by the very same incubus his lover has drawn him there to save, there's no denying the incredible power of his sexuality. Despite that, however, what I took away from the story was the small gestures of compassion that he offers the unwitting targets of his lust.
His long-suffering and reluctantly estranged partner in damnation is Caecilia, once a virginal handmaiden of Diana who paid for their single act of love with an eternity of unquenchable lust. The fact that she’s damned, but not entirely broken, is what makes her so immediately attractive. A wanton whore on the surface, she’s actually a strong, dedicated, faithful lover who will sacrifice anything – including the sweet memories that allow her to endure one degradation after another – for the hope of being together again.While Vitus is worthy of our respect for taking immense physical risks in the pursuit of love, it’s Caecilia who is most deserving of our compassion and admiration for risking her very heart and soul.
Overall, this was a dark story, full of angry (at times, bordering on non-consensual) acts of animalistic lust. There’s a very real sense of danger and excitement to the sex that belongs entirely to the realm of sadomasochistic fantasy. Watching Caecilia lose herself to the all-consuming power of an incubus is powerfully erotic, but watching Vitus succumb to that same demonic, double-headed phallus is absolutely mesmerising in its forbidden intensity. Initially, you can’t help but want to distance yourself from the danger, but the strength of the characters draws you in. By the end, you can’t help but feel guilty for enjoying it, so much so that you feel the physical need to wash off the sweat and the grime of the experience. That being said, with the slender thread of love and hope to compel you along, you’d gladly take the journey to Deadeye all over again.
DISCLAIMER: This book was received from the publisher for the purpose of a review on Queer Magazine online....more
For a story that’s so full of extreme pain and sadistic punishment, Naked Submission is surprisingly romantic. Beneath all the torture and the dominatFor a story that’s so full of extreme pain and sadistic punishment, Naked Submission is surprisingly romantic. Beneath all the torture and the domination it is truly a story of love and redemption, and it’s that wonderful depth that allows it to rise above its erotic competition.
The romance in question – and, for Paul, it does fall very much into question – is between Mistress Caroline and her house-slave Paul. On the surface, theirs seems to be a relationship built strictly on dominance and submission, but it takes a lot of trust, not to mention love, to make such a relationship work so well for so long. Unfortunately, the introduction of an old lover risks destroying that trust when Paul allows his insecurities to get the better of him.
With those insecurities setting the stage, the scope of the book widens to encompass several BDSM relationships that parallel and overlap with that of Caroline and Paul. On the one hand, those relationships serve to remind us and Paul of how the power exchange is truly meant to work, and just how much pleasure can be taken from it. At the same time, they serve to further separate Caroline and Paul, before independently reinforcing their roles, and ultimately bringing them back together to rebuild their relationship.
This is an incredibly erotic novel that’s full of some very inventive and intense scenes of bondage. It’s not for the faint of heart, as the S&M elements do push the extremes, but the strength of the characters, and the beauty of the romance that binds it all together, make this a story worth risking the reader’s limits to enjoy....more
I love science fiction books best when they do something a little outside the norm . . . when they push boundaries . . . and when they make you stop aI love science fiction books best when they do something a little outside the norm . . . when they push boundaries . . . and when they make you stop and think. While I do enjoy some mindless carnage on the big screen, it simply doesn’t work for me on the page. Mind you, what I like on the page doesn’t necessarily translate well to the screen, but I have a pretty solid production crew inside my head.
Anyway, Triptych is a book that I’m delighted to say falls comfortably outside the norm, pushes sexual/racial/gender boundaries, and leaves you quite delighted to stop and think.
Take one heterosexual human couple. Introduce an oddly gendered alien into the mix. Then watch a family emerge, only to be confronted by the worst of both societies. As a story of first contact and social justice, this reminds me of the old TV series Alien Nation. It has that same conscience . . . . that same sense of something significant taking place on a personal and intimate level, even if it is approached in a very different manner.
Given Gwen and Basil’s role within the grand scheme of first contact, I was afraid we’d be left with a lot of technical asides and scientific musings to explore the aliens. Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of being cold and clinical, the approach here is warm and human. I won’t spoil any of what happens between them, but I will say I shed tears of joy and tears of sorrow for this unusual family, and that’s an accomplishment few authors can claim.
Not only is this a wonderful story, but it’s a wonderfully told story. Initially, I had my doubts as to how well it would work – not because of any failing on the part of the author, but simply because there were so many ways it could have gone wrong. Fortunately, the pop-culture references are used wisely; the aliens are neither almost-human nor completely-monstrous (but something interesting in between); the core relationship is loving and tender, presented as something natural (rather than erotic or taboo); and there’s no sign of the usual time travel clichés.
More importantly, beneath all the action and the drama, there are some big questions asked within the novel – the answers to which we’re guided, but have to realise for ourselves. That’s what makes a good science fiction novel memorable, and Triptych certainly is that....more
Take a married gay couple, put them in an archaeological dig (on an alien planet), toss in a vengeful ex-lover who refuses to accept that her financeTake a married gay couple, put them in an archaeological dig (on an alien planet), toss in a vengeful ex-lover who refuses to accept that her finance married another man, and then tie them all together with a mysterious gender-transforming bracelet.
With all of that going for it, even the worst writer on the face of the earth could probably hold my attention. Fortunately, the lovely Ms. Lathem is a very, very good writer . . . and this is a very, very good book!
Really, I loved everything about it. The romance between Evren and Shane, both before and after Shane’s transformation, was fantastic. There’s no question that these men are not just in love, but as deeply and as passionately committed to one another as any straight couple. Shane’s vulnerability, and his fear of being rejected as a woman, is played just right. Lathem balances those serious moments with just enough humour surrounding the physical aspects of being a woman to keep us engaged.
The development of Shane’s gender change is definitely the driving force behind the story, and I quite liked the resolution, enough though it wasn’t what I expected. I would have liked to see Evren struggle a bit more with suddenly loving a woman, rather than a man, but his back-story is developed well enough to make his acceptance completely plausible.
If anything, this book could have been much longer – I would have loved to know more about the dig itself and the culture of the alien planet – but that’s just me being greedy....more
It's not often you hear the word epic mentioned in the same breath as erotic, but Heidi Cullinan's The Seventh Veil is an astounding work of fantasy tIt's not often you hear the word epic mentioned in the same breath as erotic, but Heidi Cullinan's The Seventh Veil is an astounding work of fantasy that manages to be both epic and erotic. This is a big story, full of big ideas, complete with an elaborate sense of geography, history, and mythology. It has everything you would expect to find in the first installment of an epic fantasy saga, along with some very progressive ideas regarding gender and sexuality.
The opening scene does a masterful job of establishing the right kind of expectations for the story. Heidi welcomes us into a cheap, tawdy, dirty sex-den for rent, and then invites us to watch a bisexual threesome engage in a frantic orgy of lust. It's undeniably erotic, but with an undercurrent of danger. No sooner have the orgasms come and gone, however, and the ghosts suddenly follow. Charles Perry, we discover, is a man haunted by ghosts . . . and the sexual excesses that once kept them at bay are no longer enough to preserve his fragile grasp on reality.
From there, we follow Charles to the back-alley sexual alchemist, who offers up the traditional be-careful-what-you-wish-for kind of deal. The goings on there are as dark as they are fascinating, offering up the ultimate revelation that Charles is the lost consort of the Goddess of All Creation, a man destined to be the focus of a cosmic power struggle that extends far beyond his pesky ghost problem. To make matters worse, his brother, Jonathan, has just returned from the war with a festering demon trapped inside him . . . with his only hope for redemption to be found in a woman the demon wishes to devour.
The character who brings the brothers (and, ultimately, the story) together is Jonathan's foreign equerry, Timothy. For someone who initially comes across as nothing more than the standard loyal friend/servant of any generic fantasy saga Timothy ultimately proves to be the centre of the entire saga. Without giving away too many spoilers, he is a complex individual with deep ties to the same mythology that has put such demands upon Charles, and their ultimate relationship is one of the emotional cornerstones of the book.
The mythological elements here are, as I've said before, truly epic. The story takes us in and out of the spiritual realm, through layer upon layer of story, building upon the present, while also drawing deeply from the past. It's a little bewildering at first, and it does tend to get a little exhausting at times, but sticking with it is a richly rewarding experience. What we have here is a single, self-contained story, but also the first volume in a much longer saga to come.
This is neither a light read, nor an easy one, but an erotic fantasy with some real substance behind it. Instead of taking a erotic story and simply slapping on some fantasy elements, Heidi has taken a serious fantasy saga and allowed it to express itself as its sexuality, spirituality, and morality demand. The sexual elements are as open as they are diverse, tinged with darkness, but also coloured by romance. Straight, gay, bisexual, Heidi covers all the bases equally, allowing love (and lust) to bloom where it must.
The writing is crisp and clean, but with a sense of style that lends itself well to the most magical elements. The characters are well-rounded, and allowed to develop significantly throughout the story. It's an ambitious tale, but one that delivers....more
Admittedly, I don’t know much about the world of the tarot, but I love the idea of using the cards as a jumping-off point for the stories included herAdmittedly, I don’t know much about the world of the tarot, but I love the idea of using the cards as a jumping-off point for the stories included here. Fortunately, we’re provided with a little blurb about each tarot card, providing us with just enough information to understand the deeper themes of each story, but not so much as to overwhelm the plot.
Strangely enough, while it was the pair of lesbian romances (Emily Moreton’s Burn the Brightest & Marie Carlson’s Blazing Star) that demanded my immediate attention, they didn’t engage me as much as the rest. Not that there’s anything wrong with either one, but I found that the other stories just overshadowed them . . . and I’m not entirely sure why.
Erik Moore’s The Direction of Greatest Courage is a story I didn’t expect to like, but really did. It’s a potentially edgy story about open marriage and bisexuality, which freely acknowledges the assumptions and prejudices of society towards both concepts of intimacy, but then manages to successfully soften the ‘taboo’ element through the strength of its characters.
Janine Ashbless’s The Grief of the Bond-Maid is one of my favourite cards in the deck, presenting us with a Norse-flavoured high-fantasy tale (complete with a minor quest) that plays with the homoerotic hero-sidekick relationship, and then introduces a woman into the magical mix. I’d love to see more stories dealing with these characters, or perhaps even a novel. It really was that good.
K. Piet’s Surrender is another favourite, and another one that surprised me with how much it got under my skin. On the surface, it’s a straight-forward contemporary gay romance, but one that does a wonderful job of exploring not just the sexual, but also the emotional release that comes from stepping outside your comfort zone and allowing yourself to be dominated. If you’ve never considered yourself the submissive type, you may just be curious enough to play this card at least once.
S.L. Armstrong’s Oneiros is easily the most uncomfortable read in the deck, and another one that I was worried I wouldn’t take to. It contrasts the darkness of living under with HIV (never a subject you expect to lead a romance) with the cleansing light of friendship. The dream sequences are absolutely wonderful, and the overall story is surprisingly uplifting, considering the very dark avenues it could have taken.
Overall, the stories are all very well-written, with strong, interesting characters. For me, short story collections can be hit-or-miss, especially when built around a theme, but I would definitely be open to shuffling through the rest of the deck for another Cast the Cards anthology....more
Most of us are already well aware of the term polygamy. Unfortunately, the image it often brings to mind is that of the white trash bigamist that theMost of us are already well aware of the term polygamy. Unfortunately, the image it often brings to mind is that of the white trash bigamist that the media so delights in exploiting, and the psuedo-religious justifications for why he deserves multiple wives. Similarly, most of use are very familiar with the term swinger, but the image that comes to mind there is either that of a 60s drug-fuelled orgy, or a contemporary XXX stag-film gangbang.
A term we likely aren't so well aware of however - and which is at the root of An expanded love - is polyamory. The best way I can define that for you is, quite simply, the freedom to love, and to be loved . . . and isn't that lovely concept?
This is a story that's all about love, affection, intimacy, and emotional happiness. It's a story about expanded relationships, with men and women loving one another freely, without prejudice, and without commitment. There's a wonderful recurring image in the book where one family has a chalkboard in the bathroom that traces all of the family's expanded relationships. It's like some crazy molecular model, with circles everywhere and lines intersecting, except it's really a relationship tree. At the centre is a couple (one male, one female), with the people they love (male and female for each) radiating outwards, and intersecting with their own loves.
What this is not is a story that's all about sex and physical gratification. The love here is sweet, tender, romantic, and almost innocent (albeit, in a non-traditional context). There are a few bedroom scenes, a few of them quite erotic, but they're not the focus of the story. Instead, the focus is on kissing, hugging, cuddling, and just being together. In fact, the bedroom scene that returned to mind every time I closed the book was that of three lovers, lying in bed, fully clothed, having fallen asleep in one another's arms. Overall, polyamory is such a warn a wonderful concept, and one that is likely to make readers think about the arbitrary definitions we create to separate friends from lovers.
That's not to say the book is all sunshine and happiness. Jacqueline doesn't shy away from exploring the prejudices of society, and the dysfunctional elements of the families we're born into (as opposed to those into which we choose to enter). There are a few scenes of violence here, with homosexuality and polyamory the targets, and there's a very tragic sub-plot involving a polyamorous lesbian and the arranged marriage into which she's being forced by her family. Fortunately, while the book has its struggles and its tensions, the resolutions offered to these darker elements are sufficient to provide hope of happiness, if not to guarantee happiness itself. In fact, if the fate of Nadia's controlling ex-boyfriend doesn't make you smile, then your heart is most definitely not pumping!
As intrigued as I was by the concept of a polyamorous drama, I wasn't sure any author could really sell it, much less justify the concept at the heart of the story. What makes it work, and what draws the reader in, is the fact that Nadia struggles with the concept, even as she longs to embrace it. There are several instances where she writes herself diary entries from the future, assuring her it's okay to love, and I think they sum up the message here best of all.
This an amazing, ambitious novel that accomplishes precisely what it sets out to do - open our hearts, open our minds, and remind us of how wonderful it is to feel loved. If you're at all curious, but not sure whether you can handle a love story with multiple partners, please do yourself a favour and give it a chance . . . I daresay you won't regret it....more
Georgeann Packard's Fall Asleep Forgetting first came to my attention as a finalist for last year's Lambda Award. As a tale of interwoven lives (incluGeorgeann Packard's Fall Asleep Forgetting first came to my attention as a finalist for last year's Lambda Award. As a tale of interwoven lives (including a suicidal restaurateur, an adulteress, a jealous transvestite, a homophobic war veteran, and young tomboy who holds it all together), set in a rather unique trailer park, it manages to successfully hold its own against such a diverse cast of characters.
Although slow moving and, at times, a little repetitive, this is a wonderfully poetic story that is as much a joy to 'hear' as it is to 'read.' It takes a strange road to get started, jumping decades and characters, but there's a theme of loneliness that ties it all together. The story itself doesn't really get moving until the discovery of a body on the beach, but that's okay because it's an interesting ride getting there.
It may seem odd to talk of a story that's all about relationships, and to say it's haunted by a theme of loneliness, but that's part of why I enjoyed it so much. There's nothing obvious or expected about the writing, and you really have to accept the characters quirks in order to appreciate this scattered glimpse into their lives. This is also a novel about obsessions and excesses - sexual, emotional, physical, and culinary - and about the consequences of those excesses.
This wasn't the story I expected, but sometimes that's for the best. I would much rather be surprised and delighted by a tale, than to come away feeling . . . well, complacent. On the one hand, I think it could have benefited from a stronger focus on fewer characters but, on the other hand, I'm not sure it would have worked as well without them. I've thought about that for a few days now, and I still can't make up my mind, which is just fine by me.
I almost hate to say it, because it seems so obvious to me (yet hasn't been mentioned in a single review that I've seen), this is the kind of story that seems to cry out for a David Lynch screen adaptation. If that scares you away, then it's probably best that you take a pass, but if that intrigues you, I think you'll appreciate the read. ...more
When Violet Williams introduced me to her newest project, she said she wrote First Taste to address "the lack of interracial, bisexual characters in 'When Violet Williams introduced me to her newest project, she said she wrote First Taste to address "the lack of interracial, bisexual characters in 'new-adult' paranormal romance." Toss in a taboo student/professor relationship, a gruesome serial killer, and a vampire twist, and I was immediately hooked.
This was a very nice change from the kind of urban fantasies stories that seem to be in vogue lately, with a strong, confident, sexually mature heroine who is neither a wanton slut, nor a weak-kneed swooning romantic. Don't get me wrong, those stories can be fun, but they also get tiresome after a while, especially when the romance is used to disguise a plot too thin to succeed on its own.
The story is very well-written, well-balanced between eroticism and horror, with characters you really care about, and a plot that keeps you engaged right to the very end. There's clearly more of the story to come, and (for one) definitely welcome the chance to revisit Violet's world, but as a self-contained tale this works very well....more
While I suspect some of the humour either went over or under my head (it’s been a while since my high school days), and I have a few issues with the bWhile I suspect some of the humour either went over or under my head (it’s been a while since my high school days), and I have a few issues with the basic premise, My Invented Life was still a fun, crazy read.
While there’s a bit more to their relationship that drives the story, things really begin when Roz becomes convinced her sister is really a closet lesbian, after finding a suspicious book in Eva’s room. When Eva denies being a lesbian, Roz pretends to come out of the closet herself, all in an effort to convince her sister that it’s okay to be a lesbian . . . so she’ll dump her boyfriend, and leave Roz to swoop in to catch him on the rebound.
While it’s handled respectfully, and is ultimately supportive, the very idea of the fake-lesbian storyline bothered me. It just doesn’t seem like something I could imagine a teenager really doing, no matter how much more accepting her peers might be than when I was in school. Of course, humour is most often borne out of absurdity, so I forced myself to just go with the flow . . . and enjoyed it.
Besides, there are more than enough LGBT supporting characters in the book to provide a welcome balance. After all, this is a story built around a drama club . . . not that I’m trying to stereotype anyone. (grin) Roz is such a drama queen, with her Shakespearean insults and odd habit of rehearsing conversations (a quirk I share), it was hard not to like her. She’s ridiculously boy-crazy, going to extreme lengths to get her man, and crazily competitive as a sister, but she’s also a good person at heart. In the end, once the challenge has gone too far, all she wants is to have her best-friend back in Eva.
Eva I found much harder to like, especially since she seemed to spend much of the novel sulking. It would have been a very different novel had she been allowed to take the lead, but as curious as I am how things would have looked through her eyes, it would have robbed us much of the fun.
Overall, a good book (even if it’s not one I would normally read), and one that kept me smiling, even as I shook my head in wonder! ...more
What a wonderfully diverse, beautifully inclusive collection Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-spirit Literature is! I was fortunate enough to haWhat a wonderfully diverse, beautifully inclusive collection Sovereign Erotics: A Collection of Two-spirit Literature is! I was fortunate enough to have the chance to review an advance copy of the book, and it provided me with countless hours of both entertainment and thoughtful reflection. I had hoped to get a review posted before it hit stores, to help generate some advance buzz, but I just couldn't force myself to rush through it. There's such a wide range of authors, styles, and content here, with so many new ideas and histories, that I found myself rereading sections of it over and over again.
The book starts with a definition/discussion of the term two-spirit, which could encompass book all on its own. I won't get into semantics here, so I will just settle for the blanket explanation that this is a collection by, for, and about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit members of the Native American community. There's a passage in the introduction that I realise only tells part of the story, but which I found particularly interesting:
For other Native people, terms like 'lesbian' and 'queer' are seen as part of dominant Euro-American constructions of sexuality that have little to do with the more complicated gender systems in many Native traditions.
What follows is, as I said, a collection of material as diverse in content and form as it is in terms of sexuality ad gender. Deborah Miranda's Coyote Takes a Trip is one of my favourite pieces, contrasting a young man's accidental and joyous discovery of his heritage on a Venice Beach bus ride with historical quotes from 18th century missionaries regarding their horrific discovery of that same heritage. Louis Emse Cruz's Birth Song for Muin, in Red is another one that struck me, particularly the repeated theme of a "young girl in boy skin."
As much as I'm drawn to the more straightforward narratives, pieces like William Raymond Taylor's Something Wants to Be Said, a poem that manages to evoke more emotion in a single page than most novels, and Qwo-Li Driskill's (Auto)biography of Mad, a back-of-the-book style subject index of his life, complete with page numbers and other references, absolutely demanded my full attention. At the same time, Dan Taulapapa McMull's wonderful poem, A Drag Queen Named Pipi, packs more wonder and beauty into its 5 syllable lines than should be possible.
Ander's Awakening, by Daniel Heath Justice, is the longest piece in the collection and one that I had to read twice - once for the story, and again for the language. Young Ander views sees himself in dreams of an all-consuming spiritual fire that will change everything. The moment when he is gifted with his new name, Denarra Syrene, is one of the most beautiful passages I have ever read:
Ander felt a hot tremor pulse through his body, a rush of recognition as true and certain as the view in the looking glass. "Yes," he whispered, "That's my name. That's who I am."
An absolutely fascinating read, regardless of your race, ethnicity, sexuality, or gender, this is a book I am simply overjoyed I had the opportunity to explore....more
She-Male Seductions is an all-in-one collection of Blake Worthington's previously published tales of She-Male Erotica. While the stories themselves arShe-Male Seductions is an all-in-one collection of Blake Worthington's previously published tales of She-Male Erotica. While the stories themselves are too short to allow for any real character development, and while he tends to skimp on the cosmetic details that tend to matter to queer readers, I suspect his target audience of bi-curious men will quite enjoy this.
From eager mattress salesmen to just as eager deliverymen, and from the very public setting of a part to the equally public setting of an airport, the stories here manage to embrace all the cliches and do something a bit different with them. Personally, I loved the balance of Blake's surprise revelations, with half the stories seeing the shemale surprise her lover with what she is packing, and half allowing the lover to surprise the shemale with the revelation that he already knows . . . and approves.
These are very sex-positive, gender-positive stories with even a hint of romance slipped in. There's no guilt, no shame, and no embarrassment involved. Everybody (including the reader) has fun, gets off, and heads home happier for the experience....more
At just under 3650 words, Begging For Favors is a short story that packs a lot of drama into just a few pages, but which doesn’t seem at all dense orAt just under 3650 words, Begging For Favors is a short story that packs a lot of drama into just a few pages, but which doesn’t seem at all dense or rushed.
It all starts with a lesbian twist on the typical workplace fantasy. Mona is your average, ordinary, every-day office worker. She’s neither drab and insecure, nor mousy and timid – instead, she’s the kind of woman you’re just as like to smile at as to take for granted. Grace, on the other hand, is a powerfully sexy woman, an absolute bombshell who inspires as much fear as she does lust. Being a secretary may place her on a lower rung of the corporate ladder but, socially, she is definitely a few steps above Mona.
I love the way Leota so quickly sets up their confrontation, letting us know first that Mona is afraid of the other woman, but then letting it slip that she’s also attracted. By the time Grace demands some rather risqué, almost demeaning sexual favours exchange for Mona’s simple business favour, we know there’s going to be very little coercion involved. Their brief encounter is so intense, so wonderfully erotic, it isn’t until they are interrupted that we realise they’ve hardly touched one another.
That interruption comes in the form of Paul – Grace’s boss, and the man from whom Mona needs a favour. You almost expect him to take charge, to reassert the ‘proper’ office dynamic, but he’s quite content to allow Grace to continue taking the lead. I deliberately use the word 'allow' because there is definitely a flexible power exchange between the two that really adds that final erotic touch.
Hot, short, and very sexy, this is definitely a story from an author to watch. ...more
The Identity is an interesting story of a woman exploring herself and discovering her sexuality. Kate is a slightly cynical, sharp-witted woman who isThe Identity is an interesting story of a woman exploring herself and discovering her sexuality. Kate is a slightly cynical, sharp-witted woman who is attractive, but not in the traditional feminine way. More tomboy than butch, she’s an honest, open woman who tends to project an aura of being untouchable.
Much of the story revolves around a night out with a coworker, the beautiful (and wholly feminine) Samantha, when ends rather accidentally at a lesbian bar. There, Kate finds herself unintentionally chatting up a beautiful woman, with their amusing verbal interplay leading them both to the dance floor. From there, it’s back to Kate’s apartment, where some experimentation takes place, but where the intimacy remains largely off the page.
It’s an engaging story, well-told, with some wonderfully natural dialogue. The pacing is just about perfect, once Kate gets us out of the office, and there’s just enough tension to keep things interesting. There’s a feeling of a dark cloud hovering over much of the story, which foreshadows the sad uncertainty of the ending, but that’s not a criticism – it fits well with Kate’s life, and plays well with her character. Definitely worth a read, and one that will leave you unable to resist the temptation to find out what happens next....more