A Stray Hand is another companion piece to Lee's “serialized dyke drama in blog form” but, like the others, can quite easily be read alone. While theA Stray Hand is another companion piece to Lee's “serialized dyke drama in blog form” but, like the others, can quite easily be read alone. While the story once again focuses on Lee, it's a third-person narration involved, with Jennifer as the focus. As was the case with the last short (Sex with Strangers), this provides us with a different, perhaps more immediately accessible, perspective on the overall serialized story. If you’ve been following along online, you'll appreciate the fresh approach, but if you're new to the story you'll have no trouble settling in.
Jennifer and Kim are both roommates and lovers, a lovely couple who have decided to take on a new roommate to help make ends meet. Enter Lee who, quite innocently, upsets their arrangement and quickly turn the lesbian couple into an awkwardly sided lesbian love triangle. It's not so much that she comes in and begins seducing either of the women, but her very presence is a source of temptation for Jennifer.
Part BFF chick-lit and part lesbian romance, this is another wonderful story about relationships that explores the very idea of temptation, placing the responsibility upon the tempted, rather than the temptress....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
I've always enjoyed D.B.'s work, and this is another solid piece of intellectual erotica. He blends the philosophical sci-fi elements with the sexualI've always enjoyed D.B.'s work, and this is another solid piece of intellectual erotica. He blends the philosophical sci-fi elements with the sexual elements so well, you really feel like you're reading something significant....more
I’m so conflicted when it comes to Moonglow that it’s taken me the better part of a week to write a review that balances all the emotions involved, anI’m so conflicted when it comes to Moonglow that it’s taken me the better part of a week to write a review that balances all the emotions involved, and explains my personal take on the novel.
First of all, I have to be brutally honest – as much as I love a good romance, I have very little patience for soap operas. I’ll gladly watch old Beauty and the Beast or Lois and Clark reruns until I have every line of dialogue memorised (which I do!), but shows like Melrose Place, 90210, or even The L Word just make me grit my teeth and reach for the remote.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on (so-called) reality shows like The Bachelorette!
What we have here, with Moonglow, is very much a literary soap opera. If you’re a fan of that kind of drama, of the betrayals, back-stabbings, and bitchiness, you’ll likely quite enjoy this. Personally, I found it all a bit too much, especially with the drug and alcohol abuse. Ultimately, the soap opera elements became an unwelcome distraction from the love-story at its heart, although I will say the drug and alcohol abuse is never glorified, and is somewhat (if not altogether) redeemed in the end.
That brings me to my favourite part of the story, the love affair between Shell and Rena. That was beautifully handled, and came across as entirely realistic. All of the tension, awkwardness, and questioning you might expect of a relationship that could be considered inappropriate (in addition to being twice her age, Shell is also Rena’s boss), is played out honestly upon the page. When they’re, they are an amazing couple, and when they’re apart . . . well, you know (or, at least, hope) there’s a good make-up session coming soon. Their challenges are not at all out of place, given their personalities and histories, and even if their decisions frustrated me sometimes, they were never out-of-place.
Although it’s largely to blame for most of the soap opera elements, I must say I loved being immersed in the colours and the fashions of the modelling world. From backstage to the catwalk, it’s all here, with the same kind of frantic pacing and breathless manoeuvring you would expect. These girls come across so well, you have to wonder what kind of exposure Charlie has had himself to the modelling world.
As for the sci-fi element, I found some of the fashionista technologies lovely to behold, but I had hoped for more. I sense there’s a much more detailed world waiting off the page, fully imagined and ready to be explored . . . I just don’t think it was exploited to the depth that it could have been. It does allow the story to focus exclusively on the beautiful people, without having to worry about day-to-day concerns, but that could just as easily have been handled in a contemporary world.
Setting the story in the future does allow for the celebration of a society that’s far more sexually open than ours, making the openly lesbian love triangles more titillating than scandalous, but I bristled a bit at the implication that bisexual women aren’t real lesbians. It’s kind of like two steps forward, one step back, for LGBT openness, but I still appreciate the effort in exploring a story that takes lesbian love for granted, and wastes no effort in hiding, disguising, or otherwise justifying it.
Finally, I must a few words about the storytelling or the writing quality itself. This is a very descriptive book, with a lot of physical/emotional/psychological detail provided with each character introduction. As a girl who loves epic fantasy novels, I have no problem with that level of detail. In fact, as a girl who is very much in love with the idea of beauty, I quite appreciated it. I did find the story a little light on dialogue, which probably slowed the pace a bit, and which makes the descriptiveness a bit more pronounced, but that’s a minor quibble.
So, with all that said, how do I feel about Moonglow? I liked it, and I suspect I could have loved it, but the balance between soap opera drama and love story romance was a little too one-sided for me. It’s still a remarkable novel, and one that I think would appeal to a wide range of readers, so please don’t let my soap opera disdain turn you away. It’s well worth a read, and I am still very curious to see where Charlie might take us next....more
Miss Timmins’ School for Girls is a rather bland title for a book, with a cover photo of girls walking in the rain that seems as if it could have beenMiss Timmins’ School for Girls is a rather bland title for a book, with a cover photo of girls walking in the rain that seems as if it could have been taken anywhere. There’s something quite beautiful about the colours, though, and the suggestively ethnic design of the border provides our first hint of how deceptive and artificial that portrayal of ordinariness really is.
Right from the very first page we’re teased with the central mystery, and introduced in such a way that we’re immediately suspicious of the various narrators. With a teacher’s body discovered beneath a rain-swept cliff, another teacher already fleeing a scandal back home, a group of teachers too liberated to set a proper example, a story of taboo love, and a few overly curious students, the stage is set for a literary journey across the world and back in time.
For me, this was a bit of a difficult read, only because the culture (and its associated struggles) is so very foreign. There is a strong contrast between cultures, religions, and classes that is revisited throughout the story. At times, I found my fascination with the characters and their surroundings actually pulled me out of the story, forcing me to go back and reread certain passages to regain the thread of the plot. The fact that the plot seemed a bit disjointed at times likely didn’t help, but that’s not a complaint, just an observation.
I must say, the language here is lush and beautiful, almost lyrical at times. The narrative voices are very strong, authoritative, and entertaining, and yet never entirely trustworthy. Some voices had more impact than others, but it’s a style of writing that suits the mystery element very well (even if it detracts, a bit, from the cultural elements). While the main characters were very well developed, the supporting cast ran the gamut from generic to fascinating, with some existing only to advance the plot. I would have liked to see either a few less characters, or a little more time spent developing them, but that’s a minor point.
In the end, it’s the strength of Charu that carries the novel, and her development – both socially and emotionally – that kept me reading. Her story alone could have made for an interesting novel, serving as part travelogue and part romantic drama. At the same time, the mystery could very well stand alone as a much shorter novel, and might even benefit from the added focus. Somehow, though, it’s the mingling of the story lines and the genres that appealed to me most, almost (and perhaps intentionally) mirroring the mingling of cultures and classes.
All in all, an interesting read, and one that’s very well told....more
Sweet Kisses & Lesbian Wishes opens with SEARCH FOR THE BROWN BOOBIES, a cleverly titled romantic adventure that initially comes across as cheesySweet Kisses & Lesbian Wishes opens with SEARCH FOR THE BROWN BOOBIES, a cleverly titled romantic adventure that initially comes across as cheesy and clichéd, with dialogue right out of a cheap romance novel. I have to admit, I found it a little off-putting at first, but I warmed up to it by the end.
In a sense, the first story is a palate cleanser, setting us up for the dramatic change of pace (and theme) with the next two stories, PS: I LOVE YOU and I HEART YOU. Both are wonderfully sweet, nostalgic pieces of lesbian love, in which the characters reflect back on their long-term relationships. Both stories are tinged with the sadness and sorrow of lives long-lived (and well-loved), but are overwhelmingly warm, and deliciously erotic. Definitely my two favourite entries, although I think PS: I LOVE YOU comes out on top, simply for the way in which Kissa manages to weave so much emotional power into what is so clearly a foregone conclusion.
With LESSON LEARNED, we’re offered another abrupt change of theme, although this time it’s into the dark realm of paranormal romance. Coming from two such well-grounded pieces and jumping into such an imaginative piece was a bit of a shock, and for that reason I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. I definitely want to go back and read this one again, independent of the others. I found the way it played out to be completely enthralling, and the erotic edginess was right up my alley, but I had a hard time making the transition from the previous two stories. Allow yourself a pause between the stories, and I suspect you’ll find is much easier to enjoy.
Ironically, HELGA HOUSE is most solidly grounded in reality, yet still manages to be a darker, edgier, more erotic story. Given how easily I slipped into this one, and how much I enjoyed it, I’m even more certain LESSON LEARNED is deserving of another read. If you’re into bondage and domination, and don’t mind a little pain with your eroticism, then this is fantastic read. It’s probably the most directly erotic of all the stories, but the character development doesn’t suffer.
Slightly uneven, with an interesting progression of themes, this was still quite a lovely read. The diversity of the stories is definitely a welcome change from the themed anthologies I’m used to. Personally, I would rearrange them somewhat, putting SEARCH FOR THE BROWN BOOBIES between I HEART YOU and LESSON LEARNED, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. On their own, the stories are each well worth a read, certain to both delight and arouse. I’d love to see what Kissa can do with her longer works, so I think a read of Goldi or Swing Pointe may just be in order! ...more
Second Best Fantasy is the story of Maggie O’Leary, a hard partying (but lonely) lesbian infatuated with the lovely Janine Jordan, a bisexual rock staSecond Best Fantasy is the story of Maggie O’Leary, a hard partying (but lonely) lesbian infatuated with the lovely Janine Jordan, a bisexual rock star. Set in the 90s, it definitely has the taste of a social transition from 80s excess to 90s grunge, which serves the narrative itself very well.
Like Angela’s first book, Unavailable, addiction plays a significant role here, almost becoming a character in itself. Even as things seem to be progressing personally and professionally for the two lovers, their inability to slay their demons with drugs and alcohol casts a gloomy pall over their lives. You want to believe in a happily-ever-after, but you’re also afraid of being disappointed.
Despite that looming uncertainty, I thought the relationship between the two women was handled very well, with a realistic progression from groupie/star to friend/lover. Although she can be a bit annoying at times, I liked the honesty of Maggie’s voice as a narrator. She does come across as a bit brash and arrogant at times, with an unhealthy dose of 80s self-absorption, but when she lets her guard down we see the hurt, wounded, uncertain woman inside.
I must warn you, the ending is definitely bleak, contrasting the power of love with the power of addiction. Unable to quit for themselves, Maggie and Janine struggle to overcome their separate addictions for the other’s sake, to rescue not themselves, but their relationship. Fortunately, I share Maggie’s stubborn streak, so I choose to believe that her final scene is not an ending, but a new beginning. It’s easier to read it the other way, though, which makes for not only a sad ending, but a frustrating one as well....more
Sappho International is a new erotic thriller, set in an underground secret society of women-who-love-women. Tied by both bloodlines and sexuality toSappho International is a new erotic thriller, set in an underground secret society of women-who-love-women. Tied by both bloodlines and sexuality to the legacy of Sappho (the infamous poet from the island of Lesbos who wrote about love between women in 600 BC), the Sapphic Trust is a group of powerful, elite women who hold themselves above the laws of men. Sappho International is the lesbian entertainment and escort arm of their organization, serving as both a front for their activities, and as a recruitment tool for their upper echelon of women.
With a set-up like that, I was only too eager to settle in for a great read, but I had a hard time getting into the story. The narrative style initially struck me as odd, as if a straight man were trying too hard to write about lesbians. There was a definite masculinity to the storytelling that jarred with what I was expecting. As soon as I encoutered another character's reaction to the narrator, however, everything fell into place. Max Silk is a very butch, very masculine, very androgynous lesbian. She's the kind of woman who likes to dress like a tomboy, and who is always packing (i.e. wearing a strap on dildo beneath her jeans). Once I adjusted my mental image from lipstick to butch, the narration not only began to seem natural, but actually added a new twist of originality to the story that I hadn't expected . . . but certainly appreciated.
This is a three-act story, beginning with the 'discovery' and advancement of Max through the ranks of Sappho International. Already a successful club manager of the Sapphire Loungue, she expects the worst when summoned to a secretive meeting with the club's owner, PrimaDonna Valentina, only to be invited to become a 'stud' for Sappho International. The second act of the story deals largely with her initiation into the organization, and her participation in Cloud 9, an global extravaganza that indulges the most decadent whims of only the richest and most powerful women. The final act revolves around Max's discovery of a traitor within the ranks, another well-respected stud who is using the organization to front her own illegal activities, and their eventual confrontation.
As you might expect, this is a very sexual story, but one that feels more like a gloriously trashy romantic thriller than a work of pure erotica. It's in-your-face and a bit over-the-top, but it's also a whole lot of fun. Despite the fact that Max is cautioned against emotional entanglements, and advised to keep the sex on a purely professional level, there are a pair of romantic triangles that add some spice to the story, and just enough sentimentality to keep the reader emotionally engaged. It's also a very exciting story, full of dramatic twists, devastating secrets, and enough catfights and bitchiness to satsify even the most agressive reader.
Personally, I found the final act of the story to be the most exciting, particularly with the revelations about the origins of the Sapphic Trust, and about Max's place withing the organization. There's clearly more to the story than we've been told - and, as much fun as this was, I suspect there's an even better story to come. If you're in the mood for a good soap-opera thriller, and don't mind some in-your-face sexuality, this is a story that's well worth a read....more
On the one hand, it’s a shame werewolves haven’t had quite the same level of literary exposure as vampires, because they have so much more potential.On the one hand, it’s a shame werewolves haven’t had quite the same level of literary exposure as vampires, because they have so much more potential. The act of transformation, the duality of spirit, and the tense dichotomy between domesticated human and wild animal make them so exciting to explore. Unlike vampires, there’s never an end to the seduction or to the transformation, which means there’s far less risk of the story growing stale.
On the other hand, that lack of exposure is also a relief, in that werewolves haven’t been de-clawed to the same extent that vampires had been de-fanged.
Daughters of Artemis is a really fascinating collection, with its own duality of spirit and tense dichotomy between horror and eroticism. Given the pack mentality of werewolves, and the traditional focus on the alpha male leader, it’s really exciting to read a collection of stories about female werewolves who are both leaders and lesbians. Additionally, it’s wonderfully rewarding to find authors who remain true to the wild mythology, while finding creative ways to make the stories contemporary.
The Fullness That Love Began by Marie Carlson This was a fun story about suburban werewolves (complete with jobs at Microsoft), hunting rights, pack alliances, the war of the sexes, and the emotional conflict between love and procreation. Visually, the focus here is definitely on the human side of things, but the politics are all werewolf, and the sex is just wild enough to cross (and re-cross that line).
The Fire of Her Eyes by K. Piet A much more traditional a tale about werewolves in the wild, with a danger triangle between werewolves, weretigers, and human hunters, this was definitely my favourite story in the collection. The romance between Katya, leader of the wolves, and Yun, blind tiger outcast, is simply gorgeous, and their lovemaking is both wild and sensuousness.
Luna's Mate by Shashauna P. Thomas After two tales that proudly thrust us into the midst of the pack, with alpha females well-established and in charge, this is a nice step back to the story of a ‘normal’ girl on the run from wolves. Luna is just a great character, and we really get to see her transform emotionally through her meeting with feral destiny, and her seduction by the sexy Syrene is delightful to behold. The tone of the writing didn’t quite match that of the story, but I loved how it first set, and the upset, all expectations.
To Pierce the Sky by Erik Moore Combining themes of the first two stories, this one was an interesting look at a contemporary werewolf tribe, established within a Native American culture. I liked how the cultural clash between Native and Caucasian was contrasted with that of the werewolf and the human, and I thoroughly enjoyed having the tables turned, with the virgin werewolf being seduced by the white woman who has come to interview her.
Protect the Moon by Della R. Buckland Although a decent story on its own, this fantasy tale suffers from comparison to the stories around it. Whereas the others walk that fine line between mythology and reality, allowing us to imagine the story could be happening just behind that line of trees, this is clearly a tale of another time and place. That in itself isn’t an issue for me (I love epic fantasy), but it feels artificial here. Full of action, but without the sensuality or the drama of the others, it just came across as kind of flat.
Sacrifices by S.L. Armstrong Another story firmly rooted in the realm of fantasy, this is a large part of why the previous story suffers in comparison. The characters here are easy to love, the writing flows beautifully, and it’s probably the sexiest story in the collection. Like the first story, the themes of duty and obligation are key here, with Sasha having to balance her King, her pack, and her mate. The werewolves are definitely not traditional, but it’s kind of fitting that the collection end on a creative twist.
Overall, a very strong collection, and one that I think has broad appeal – no pun intended....more