Ridley's Reviews > Agony/Ecstasy: Original Stories of Agonizing Pleasure/Exquisite Pain

Agony/Ecstasy by Jane Litte
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's review
Sep 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: ebook, 4-star, erotica, read-2011, novella-short-story-anthology

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

Since this is a genre collection, rather than a literary one, there's not a ton to talk about thematically. The authors' goals were to entertain, not enlighten. So I'd suppose my job as a reviewer is to try explain if they succeeded or not.

So, to begin with, it's like most anthologies: some great stories, some terrible ones, and a bunch of ok ones. Definitely erotica, not romance, but not all BDSM themed. Most have at least a thread of romance to them, but only a few had an HEA. Some don't even have an HFN. Rest assured that none of the stories are downers, but if you're a romance reader you might not know what to make of the stories with fully ambiguous endings.

If I added up my grades for the stories to find the mathematical average, the book comes in at a three. Somehow that just didn't match my perception of the anthology as a whole. The raw desire and emotion of "Shameless," the pulse-quickening suspense of "Rescue Me" and the convention-bucking "Safeword" seemed better than a mere three star read. "Caged" breathed new life into the tired werewolf theme and left me begging for more. "Into the Red" was an imaginative futuristic gladiator tale with some of the hottest emotion in the anthology. "Bruised Ego" and "Overtaken" took two different takes on boxer/fighter heroes, managing to show both sides of the same coin.

Yes, "Wetwire" was derivative Neuromancer fanfic, the dialog-free "Taken" a boring Indian captive story and "The Wooden Pony" a phoned-in maledom BDSM cliche, but they didn't manage to spoil the bunch. For every bad story there were two okay ones and one great one. Isn't that really the best you can hope for in an anthology?

If you're in the market for quick and dirty erotic short stories, Agony/Ecstasy is a quality offering. It's diverse in theme, sexual orientation and culture and packs enough emotion to keep it from being a volume of forgettable stroke fiction. The strongest entries far outweigh the weakest ones, leaving the lasting impression of a satisfying read. If you're brave enough to step outside the romance genre Jane is associated with, this is a great collection of erotica.
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Reading Progress

September 20, 2011 – Shelved
September 20, 2011 – Shelved as: ebook
November 9, 2011 – Started Reading
November 9, 2011 –
12.0% "I read the two Anne Calhoun stories so far. I loved the Agony side story (Transfixed) as it was original, refreshingly femdom and had compelling characterization. Unfortunately the Ecstasy side continuation of their story (Transformed) took away everything that made them unique and compelling so they'd fit the romance genre conventions of rich powerful hero and cherished heroine. Meh." (Paperback Edition)
November 13, 2011 –
16.0% "The Sybil: Meh. More exposition than a story so short can bear. POV shift lost me as well. Not a bad story, but nothing about it grabbed me either."
November 13, 2011 –
22.0% "Caged: Oooh! I liked that one. Exceedingly dark werewolf story with a ton of emotion and an ambiguous ending. I'm left wanting more, but in a good way."
November 13, 2011 –
28.0% "Each Step Sublime: Man, no one sexes up a fairy tale like Bettie Sharpe. Nom."
November 13, 2011 –
34.0% "Safeword: Whoa! BDSM erotica where the male top is learning from the female bottom? Laughter? Charming awkwardness? Total win."
November 13, 2011 –
40.0% "Stitch and Bitch: Really wanted to like this one, as f/f is so rare, but total snoozefest. It tried to cram a novel into 20 pages and fell flat emotionally."
November 13, 2011 –
44.0% "Bachelorette Party: Fun, but an incredibly unoriginal premise. Doesn't measure up well to the other spanking story."
November 13, 2011 –
48.0% "Wicked Wedding Night: Regency-set BDSM rape fantasy. Too neat and tidy. Also: no fan of sex as PTSD therapy."
November 13, 2011 –
52.0% "Shameless: Oh wow. That was wonderfully original and with a ton of emotion. Bravo."
November 13, 2011 –
56.0% "Taken: Indian captures white settler story. No dialog. Boring as all get out."
November 13, 2011 –
60.0% "Wetwire: Neuromancer-inspired cyberpunk sex. All sensation, no emotion."
November 13, 2011 –
65.0% "Rescue Me: That was good romantic suspense. Such a sweet resolution too."
November 14, 2011 –
69.0% "The Wooden Pony: Maledom BDSM consisting of every cliche in the book."
November 14, 2011 –
73.0% "Kiss Of Life: Compelling characters, but story was unfocused. Just okay."
November 14, 2011 –
77.0% "Silverhouse: Cute, kinky historical with a bratty sub heroine. Liked how hero was a Dom/top but written with a lot of vulnerability to him."
November 14, 2011 –
82.0% "Bruised Ego: Sorta femdom, sorta vanilla, but totally hot. That was a great emotional story with compelling characters."
November 14, 2011 –
86.0% "On My Skin: Good tattoo story. Woefully undeveloped erotic/romantic story."
November 14, 2011 –
90.0% "Just Say Yes: Started out strong as an office romance with a twist then dashes through to a too neat ending."
November 14, 2011 –
95.0% "Into the Red: Vaguely futuristic set m/m where one of the leads is a convict who's a gladiator of sorts. Good, subtle world building and really hot sex."
November 14, 2011 –
100.0% "Overtaken: Another man-on-top rough sex scenario, but the hero's vulnerability saves it from cliche. Also: I'm a sucker for boxers/fighters."
November 14, 2011 – Shelved as: 4-star
November 14, 2011 – Shelved as: erotica
November 14, 2011 – Shelved as: read-2011
November 14, 2011 – Finished Reading
October 11, 2012 – Shelved as: novella-short-story-anthology

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Ridley Eggs wrote: "Honestly don't know if that's a BDSM cliche?"

BDSM as therapy is a common erotic romance theme. Authors feel the need to give a reason for why someone would be into BDSM and this is a favorite of theirs. Makes me stabby.

message 2: by Bark (new) - added it

Bark Great job, I have a hard time reviewing anthologies of this sort because I'm lazy and it is so much work and usually near the mid-way point the stories all start to blend in my head.

Ridley BarkLessWagMore wrote: "...usually near the mid-way point the stories all start to blend in my head."

That's why I made sure to post an update after each story. Otherwise review time would've come and it'd be "stare at the blank page for hours at a loss for what to write" time.

message 4: by Shannon (new) - added it

Shannon HFN?

Ridley Happy For Now.

message 6: by Shannon (new) - added it

Shannon Ridley wrote: "Happy For Now."

Ah. I did a quick googling and "hell fucking no" came up, which didn't make sense in context but did feel like something you'd say!

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