Christina Shelly has been a favourite author of mine for many years, ever since I accidentally discovered a copy of her first book, Silken Slavery, inChristina Shelly has been a favourite author of mine for many years, ever since I accidentally discovered a copy of her first book, Silken Slavery, in a Toronto bookstore. Somebody had clearly lifted it from the erotica section, flipped through it, and dropped it on the horror shelf right next to the Clive Barker book I was looking for. Coincidence or fate, I (being the bookslut that I am) bought both.
Unlike so much of the commercially produced erotica available in mainstream bookstores, which usually just pays lip service to the transgender community by mixing in some forced feminization with its female domination, Christina’s books are unapologetically for and about the ready-and-willing transgendered girl.
With The Secret Self, Christina takes that expression to the next step. Her protagonist is already an accomplished, extremely passable transvestite, although one stuck very much in the closet. While there is a femdom element to her past, with a Mistress largely removed from the immediate action, that relationship is more about forcing Adam to overcome his fears and fully embrace the Eve within than it is about forcing him to be something/somebody he doesn’t want to be.
Much of the story revolves around an exclusive, invitation only club (Crème de la Crème), populated by transsexuals, transvestites, shemales, and their admirers. There, Eve is challenged and encouraged to explore her secret self. Christina’s descriptions of how it feels to dress, walk, and act like a girl are absolutely breathtaking. She doesn’t gloss over the preparation, and doesn’t shy away from the confusion of being in transition.
This isn't just a story about sexual fetishism, no matter how hot and delicious those scenes may be. It's also a story about relationships. As the story progresses, Eve find herself involved in a relationship with two Mistresses (one largely off-stage, and the other very prominent in the club); a trans-sister whom she admires, envies, and adores; and a male admirer who pushes her to complete her transformation. The romance that develops between Eve and Richard is one of the strongest aspects of the novel. It’s not something Adam could ever want, but it is something Eve is coming to desire, and Christina handles that emotional conflict between beautifully.
The relationship between Eve and Richard is an intense one. He is the strong, forceful, dominant male that Eve needs if she is to wholly overcome the lingering aspects of Adam's persona. Even though Richard treats her like a woman, the spectre of her dual-persona is always there, and they frequently cross the line from romance to BDSM in an attempt to completely overwhelm those 'drab' memories. Even as we thrill at Eve's seduction, however, we never entirely trust Richard or his motivations.
Fortunately, whenever things start to get too intense, Christina smartly reintroduces Cherry into the action. A long-time member of Crème de la Crème, she serves as Eve's buxom and beautiful (not to mentiuon, very well-hung) transition guide. She is equal parts big-sister, BFF, and bisexual lover. Eve's relationship with her is never casual, but sweet, silly, fun, and even a little bit frantic. Their roles within the club don't allow them much time to play, but you can't help but smile every time they get together.
Without giving away too much, the book's conclusion is as deeply arousing as it is satisfying. Yes, it's very heavily weighted on the fantasy side of things, but that's entirely appropriate for a story about dreams and desires.
Although the Nexus publishing line has been discontinued, here's hoping that someday we get to experience the next chapter of Eve. ...more
Deep and sorrowful, Heart of Change is an empowering read that is more about questions than it is about answers. It’s about questioning every aspect oDeep and sorrowful, Heart of Change is an empowering read that is more about questions than it is about answers. It’s about questioning every aspect of your identity, and about finding the courage to look deep inside yourself, even when the answers you find aren’t necessarily the ones you were seeking. As the title suggest, it’s also a book about changes, the emotions that drive them, and the emotions they elicit in the reader.
Simone Sinclair is a wonderful character, as strong as she is sexy, who has sincerely enjoyed her career as a porn star. Neither a typical porn star bimbo, nor an abused woman seeking attention, she never attempts to rationalize or justify what she does for a living. Instead, she proudly owns her sexuality, living for the ‘big’ moment . . . the climactic scene where she is able to look past the actors, past the cameras, and past the crew to share her climax with the audience. Off-screen, she is fiercely independent and protective, choosing to trade the blissful physical contact of her heterosexual co-stars for the purely emotional support of her lesbian friends. Even when everything else begins to fall apart around her, and the love of another woman seems to be all that’s left, she’s strong enough to ensure that her choices are her own. She is a woman who is aware of her own issues, and who takes the time to understand them before jumping into commitments that might cause long-term pain to those around her, even if means short-term pain for herself.
One of her lesbian friends is Geri, a woman who is just as strong and just as sexy, although in a much different way. She loves Simone, but hates what she does for a living. Alternately comforting and intimidating, she flirts with playing the role of the typical ‘butch’ lesbian, but is saved from the stereotype by her own gender confusion and discomfort. She likes to be in charge, and her favourite accessory is a strap-on dildo she wields proudly, but she’s very insecure about why the masculine side of her holds such appeal. Her love for Simone is honest and sweet, and is allowed to develop very naturally. When they finally come together, the sex is deep and passionate, almost spiritual in its intensity. Personally, as much as I admired Simone, it was Geri who I felt for the most. Even when Simone makes some really questionable choices, Geri accepts the pain as part of the price of being in love, but she never allows either of them to settle for what’s safe and traditional.
For me, a significant part of the appeal in Heart of Change was the development of Simone’s sexuality. I thought her transition to bisexuality was handled very well, and I had no trouble accepting such a significant change in her lifestyle after 40+ years. I also appreciated the fact that the story ultimately led her to question whether she might really be a lesbian, as opposed to arbitrarily making some bold declaration. We may not be left with the happiest or tidiest of endings, and there are still questions remaining, but it’s a story that comes across as real. When you’re dealing with porn stars, lesbians, and a mid-life crisis, the fact that the characters and choices do come across as ‘real’ is a testament to Roxy’s talents as a storyteller.
DISCLAIMER: This book was received from the publisher for the purpose of a review on Queer Magazine online....more
An interesting story of unrequitted love, dreams, longings, and new beginnings. The opening chapters that set up the Victorian backstory are wonderfulAn interesting story of unrequitted love, dreams, longings, and new beginnings. The opening chapters that set up the Victorian backstory are wonderful, complete with magic (and magick), clockwork automotons, illusionists, and a secret gay men's club. Alain Mobry is such a fantastic character that I would dearly love to Ms. Snow explore him in greater detail.
As for the contemporary romance, it was beautifully handled. Cameron's coming out & acceptance of his gayness seemed a bit too easy, but the way it played out (like a kid in a candy store) ultimately made it work. Finally, I must commend Ms. Snow on the erotic elements. While I don't mind them, I generally don't find M/M sex scenes particularly arousing. With Paul and Cameron, however, they were both hot and sweet, sexy and tender, at the same time. There is real romance there, true (and hopefully lasting!) love, to bring it all together.
I wouldn't count myself a fan yet, but I'm certainly curious to explore some of Ms. Snow's other books....more
Although many of the stories were a little short for my taste (they were, indeed, 'tastes' rather than 'meals' in their own right), Charlie David accoAlthough many of the stories were a little short for my taste (they were, indeed, 'tastes' rather than 'meals' in their own right), Charlie David accomplishes something impressive here. Each story has it's own style, almost as if they were written by different authors, but there is definitely a consistent 'voice' that connected them. I simply can't think of any better way to explain it than that. You can almost picture yourself curled up on the couch, a pillow clutched to your breast, as you sit and listen to Charlie tell you some of his favourite stories.
I genuinely liked the characters, but wish we could have had more time together. Many of the stories were so short (3-10 pages), there simply was no opportunity to really explore a relationship with them. Perhaps 'tease' would be a better description than 'taste' but some of the longer stories (Pygmalion, Harvest, and and Narcissus) are handled beautifully, and even some of the shorter stories (I'm particularly thinking of October 13th) do an admirable job, considering their brevity....more
For some people, short stories are the ultimate literary form. Brevity is the soul of wit, so the saying goes, and there are those who believe that anFor some people, short stories are the ultimate literary form. Brevity is the soul of wit, so the saying goes, and there are those who believe that anything important enough to be said can be done so in less than 50 pages. Not this gal – give me a big, bloated, epic novel and I’ll take that over a short story any day of the week. Quite honestly, sitting down with a 1000 page epic makes me wet . . . the sense of anticipation, of rising climax, of delayed gratification, is almost sexual in nature.
That’s not to say I can’t appreciate a good story. When done well, they can be wondrous pieces of work. My introduction to Clive Barker was through the six slender volumes of the Books of Blood. After cutting my teeth on Pet Semetary, it was Steven King’s Night Shift collection that I gravitated to next. Even before that, having discovered him through my love of the Twilight Zone episodes, I devoured every Richard Matheson short story collection I could get my hands on.
So, that brings us to the Wilde Stories 2010 collection, edited by Steve Berman (a very good author in his own right).
For me, a great short story is built around one of two things – either the characters, or the setting/atmosphere. One or the other has to succeed in drawing the reader into the story; otherwise the plot itself falls flat. Here, rather predictably (since the gay theme most often originates with the narrator/protagonist), it's the characters that succeed. Although the restraints of the short story don't generally allow for a lot of growth, there were a few notable exceptions where I found the characters well developed. In particular, I’m referring to the entries by Bowes, Lane, and Hand.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find the setting/atmosphere aspect of these stories nearly as well developed. Looking back over the years, my favourite short stories are those that clearly establish a setting that drives the mood and the atmosphere of the story. As much as well developed characters can draw you into the story, it's a strong setting that isolates the reader from the real work and allows for that all-important denial of reality. Barron, Francisco, and Hand succeeded beautifully here, but (despite their respective stories' initial promise), Bowes and Lee just fell flat.
Aside from all that, there is some beautiful writing here. Personally, I’m not one to sit back and admire the language of a story, but a well-written story does creep a little deeper into your brain and establish some connections there. Although it’s been done before, I really like what Sheppard did with the ship's log, and I thought Hughes did an amazing job of telling an amusing story, as opposed to just telling a story with amusing elements. Hand and Lee, of course, are amazing in how they weave a tale, and I actually liked how ambiguous Cardamore's story was, despite some other reviewers’ feelings. Finally, I have to give Li credit for doing something different, but I found her accented syntax just too distracting.
All in all, for those who like their speculative fiction a little bit ‘gay’ then this a collection worth picking up. For most, I suspect it will be more of a pick-and-choose kind of collection, as opposed to a cover-to-cover read, but those stories that work, work well – and are worth the price of admission....more
Yes, Absolutely Perfection is just as wild, crazy, and eccentrically beautiful as the book blurb makes it sound.
The book starts out on a dark note, wYes, Absolutely Perfection is just as wild, crazy, and eccentrically beautiful as the book blurb makes it sound.
The book starts out on a dark note, with a bar interrogation scene that could be taken from any prime time drama - except for the fact that the bartender is a vampire, and his interrogator is a Hindu snake-god in human guise. The banter is very well done, and the introduction of the vampire's family provides our first glimpse of the surreal elements that drive the story along. When Taza comes barelling into the bar, fleeing a human who has mistaken the seahorse for a mermaid and deemed him lunch, the story launches into full-on camp absurdity.
What develops from there is a fairly standard romantic comedy involving unwilling partners who, despite their intentions, fall deeply, madly, and passionately in love. Of course, as much as the plot device is standard, the characters certainly are not. With Tika and Taza we have to non-humans taking on human guises that are bordering between cute twink and effeminate boy. To confuse matters further, both are capable of bearing young, and are equally certain that the other will fulfill that role in their relationship.
The book's one minor failing is that it's so frantic, and so deep with the alien biology of mythological creatures, that the reader can get lost at times. The sex scenes are particularly confusing, especially when Tika is wavering between his natural serpent self and his human guise. In the end, though, the love story is so strong and so rewarding that the reader is more than happy to take the time to go back and reread a few paragraphs.
Ultimately, this is a story unlike any other you're likely to read this year. Novelty aside, it's also wonderfull written, which characters you will almost immediately become invested in....more
**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
A very short story . . . more a scene than anything else. Having said that, Snyder clearly conveys the joy of dressing and the thrill of transformatioA very short story . . . more a scene than anything else. Having said that, Snyder clearly conveys the joy of dressing and the thrill of transformation. As for the sex, it's more subtle than you'd likely expect, but it's wonderfully described....more
You're Invited is an almost shocking mix of themes, being both a bittersweet tale of coming out of the closet, and a sexually charged tale of gay expeYou're Invited is an almost shocking mix of themes, being both a bittersweet tale of coming out of the closet, and a sexually charged tale of gay experimentation. The storytelling is strong, the primary characters well developed, and the sex – wow! Alternately tender and hot, romantic and erotic, Roxy Harte manages to capture both the fear and the joy of realising one's true self (and sexuality)....more
Considering its length (about 30 pages), Jade manages to accomplish quite a bit with this story. We get to follow Tanner through his first crush, dateConsidering its length (about 30 pages), Jade manages to accomplish quite a bit with this story. We get to follow Tanner through his first crush, date, and sexual encounter; the confusing emotional aftermath of his deception; and the ultimate realisation (and reciprocation) of his lust. It’s definitely an experience worth sharing, and a book that will make you smile long after you’ve put it down....more
Every once in a while (if you’re lucky), you come across that one book that so absolutely amazes and delights you that it makes you want to run througEvery once in a while (if you’re lucky), you come across that one book that so absolutely amazes and delights you that it makes you want to run through the streets, singing its praises to the world. The kind of book that’s constantly on your mind, playing with your emotions, and demanding that you find a few more minutes to savour it – because just ‘reading’ it is never enough.
For me, Darcy Abriel’s Silver (Book 1 of the Humanotica series) is that book.
Although this is an intensely sexual read, there is a strong dystopian plot driving the action that would not be out of place in a mass market science fiction novel. The city of Quentopolis is a futuristic empire, controlled by the humans of the Politico, and serviced by the computers of the Elite Logical Life Core. This is a society where mechanical modifications are standard practice, but any citizen who surpasses the 50/50 balance between human and humanotic becomes a slave, chattel for whoever owns them.
Enter the Metallitionist Resistance. Their members violently oppose this notion of slavery, and are actively plotting to disrupt the Politico. For some Resistance members the struggle is about justice and change, but for others it’s simply about revenge.
That contradiction is just one of many that are woven through the story of Silver. This is a story comprised of contradictions – justice/revenge, male/female, slave/master, human/machine, dominant/submissive, science/supernatural – but it’s the unique compromises that Darcy introduces to those contradictions which are so pleasantly surprising.
As I said, this is also an intensely sexual read, with innovative obscenities and novel delights that never cease to amaze, even as they furiously arouse. Silver herself is the centrepiece of all this sexual activity. Once a human female, she has been progressively modified into a thing a beauty, a voluptuous humanotic sex goddess, with a silver-tipped phallus that would put most men to shame. Her body has been designed to both give and receive pleasure, and she has been conditioned by her owner, Lel Kesselbaum, to maximize the intensity and duration of those pleasures.
As for Kesselbaum, he is a member of the Politico and a member of the Dominatae – sexualized nobility who are specifically trained in the erotic art of dominance. Although he seems cold and distant a first, a villainous abuser of the beautiful Silver, brilliant complexities are slowly revealed in both himself and his relationship with her. The ways in which he prepares and displays his Trinex, particularly how he dresses her and sculpts her public appearance, are absolutely glorious to behold.
Further complicating matters is Entreus, once a mechanized Orictian warrior, and now leader of the Metallitionist Resistance. He sees Silver as his access point to Kesselbaum and the Politico, a means of peacefully driving change from within the system itself. At the same time, he is intensely aroused by the very notion of who and what she is, so much so that he’s willing to betray his own nature and allow her to take the upper hand.
It is with Entreus that Silver first explorers her dominant side, brutally penetrating him with her silver-tipped phallus. Directed, enabled, and assisted by the beautiful Violette (Kesselbaum’s female counterpart amongst the Dominatae), their coming together is a scene of such wonder and eroticism that I challenge any reader to finish it with both hands still on the book.
To say much more would be to spoil the surprises that drive the latter half of the book. Suffice to say, every time you think the story has reached its height, every time you figure the sexual innovations have reached their peak, Darcy insists on taking you a bit father. And, just when you think you’ve figured out where the story is going, she exposes a few satisfying twists that force yet another compromise – this time, with the your expectations.
Available from Samhain Publishing on December 21st (just in time for the holidays), Silver is a book that I cannot recommend highly enough. ...more
Demon's Fall is a wonderful little novella that begins with an interesting premise: an incubus purchases a caged and collared angel to add to his collDemon's Fall is a wonderful little novella that begins with an interesting premise: an incubus purchases a caged and collared angel to add to his collection. As you can imagine, there is a great deal of potential contained within that premise, sexually, romantically, and even theologically. A less daring author likely would have used the concept to feed a steamy bit of BDSM erotica, populated with stock angels and demons, but even as Karalynn acknowledges that potential, she carefully steers the story in some surprising (and refreshing) directions....more