Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review: Baby Love by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

Disclaimer: I tend to love everything Emmanuelle de Maupassant writes, so, at this point, I basically expect to love everything she writes. That said, after decades of selling, pimping and reviewing books, I’m basically incapable of saying I like something when I don’t, so, no matter how much I love someone’s work, I won’t claim to like something just because it was written by one of my go-to authors. My thoughts and enthusiasm are completely genuine, even if not totally surprising.

And now, my review of Baby Love by Emmanuelle de Maupassant….

Review:

March was a busy, hectic month full of deadlines and lots of reading for work, so when I finally got to sit down with Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s new novelette, Baby Love, I was really ready for something that would help me relax and feel good. Happily, I had a feeling Baby Love was going to be it, and I was right.

Baby Love is basically what would happen if Bridget Jones were a person I actually liked. While I’ve always been able to see the appeal of Helen Fielding’s adorably hapless Bridget, there was something in those books that felt a bit too precious to be believed. I always wanted to get on board, but I and just couldn’t seem to. Unlike Bridget though, I was more than on board for Delphine, Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s charming, very charming, and very pregnant heroine.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

When her husband leaves her when she’s eight months pregnant, Delphine, quite understandably, has a meltdown – a good, proper, cathartic meltdown like anyone would have under those circumstances. But her meltdown, while being genuinely funny, is also genuinely relatable. de Maupassant gives the reader the feeling that you are sharing Delphine’s experience, rather than having an experience performed for your entertainment. It’s that genuine quality that pulled me on board from the first page, and held on to be through the last.

The thing that made the difference for me is that Delphine’s story felt real and lovely and sweet, rather than arch or performed. There is so much warmth and humor in this short little gem, but it’s touching and a little raunchy in the way real life is. It’s a romantic story, for sure, but it’s also full of hormones and longing and bodies behaving in ways you don’t expect. It’s the whole package of an experience – sexy, sad, funny, lovely, adorable, hopeful. In short, it’s exactly what I needed when I needed a lovely, beautifully written, thoroughly enjoyable break.

Baby Love is a quick read – I powered through it in under an hour and felt like I’d been to the spa myself by the end. I can’t recommend it enough. It was the perfect springtime treat from an author that can, as far as I can see, write in any style she likes with a facility that’s hard to beat.

Get the book!

Baby Love is available on Kindle for 99c/99p through mid-May. Or, if you like the feel of a book in your hands, you can get it in paperback too. Just head over to:

Amazon

Amazon UK

Review: Highland Pursuits…the Novel

REVIEW:

Late last year, I reviewed Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s short story, “Highland Pursuits”, which appeared in Because Beards, an anthology that benefited the Movember Foundation for men’s health. You can read my (super gushy) review here but, suffice to say, I loved the stockings off that story – so much so that I privately wished Emmanuelle de Maupassant would turn it into a novel. Happily, she did just that.

Highland Pursuits the novel is a wry, clever, incredibly sexy romp that reads as if it were written by Julian Fellowes’s tongue-in-cheek, worldly-wise sister. Emmanuelle de Maupassant makes the most of the fabulous possibilities that might arise for a modern young woman, banished to a remote manor house in the 1920’s. As one might imagine, hijinks ensue and they are everything one could hope for.

The thing that I especially loved about the novelization of this story is that Ms. de Maupassant did more than just expand on everything that worked so beautifully in the short story. She developed aspects of it that I couldn’t have anticipated but which led to a deeply convincing tapestry of period fiction. We get a sense of the house’s eccentric, wealthy denizens from below-stairs now, as well as a greater sense of Ophelia’s singularity as a young woman exploring her sexuality in the 1920’s.

The romance between the protagonists unfolds in a way that is both convincing and adorably star-crossed, while the rest of the cast colors the book with so much personality that the book pops with fizz and life. It’s a completely engrossing, utterly enjoyable read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially if you always wished that PG Wodehouse and Stella Gibbons had written the naughty bits. It’s fabulously fun, and yet one more example of Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s talents – not only as a writer, but as a literary chameleon.

MORE FROM THE AUTHOR:

Emmanuelle de Maupassant is thrilled to announce the launch of her saucy 1920s romance romp: ‘Highland Pursuits’.

In celebration, Emmanuelle is not only offering three signed paperback copies, via Goodreads here, but has her entire catalogue on sale for 99c/99p from March 1st-8th: Baby Love, Scarlet, Cautionary Tales and Gentlemen’s Club (as recommended by Stylist Magazine)

1920s debutante Lady Ophelia Finchingfield is banished to wildest Scotland to come to her senses, having refused a proposal from the Earl of Woldershire. In the care of her eccentric grandmother, Ophelia is soon caught between rugged widower Hamish and the villainous Comte de Montefiore.

She’s ready to play with fire, but will she burn more than her fingers?

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

 I can’t tell you how much I love this book. It was a true delight to read. The author has captured 1920s Britain wonderfully, and her detail is exquisite. – Rachel De Vine

 As a comedy of manners, this is exceptionally well done. – Fionna Guillaume 

 Highland Pursuits is a wry, clever, incredibly sexy romp… a completely engrossing, utterly enjoyable read. I can’t recommend it highly enough…fabulously fun – Malin James –> (It’s true – I can totally vouch for myself on that). 

The scene was set beautifully… I felt like I went back in time to high society Scotland – Christine of Sweet and Spicy Reads

 

 

 

 

 

Find ‘Highland Pursuits’ on Goodreads  and for sale on Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

‘Highland Pursuits’ draws inspiration from a short story of the same title Emmanuelle wrote originally for the charity fundraising anthology Because Beards: all proceeds have been given to the Movember Foundation.

This longer, novella, length offers more scope to explore the wonderful characters’ eye-popping shenanigans. Hamish and Ophelia were in Emmanuelle’s dreams for many weeks, as she wrote this story. 

 

 

Pssst…  if you enjoy Highland Pursuits, don’t forget to leave a review. Reviews make books more visible online, bringing new eyes. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, tag Emmanuelle in your review post and she’ll say hello.

Explore Emmanuelle’s website here

Find her on Twitter here

and on Facebook here

sign up for Emmanuelle’s newsletter here

 

Review: For the Men & The Women Who Love Them

I’ve been looking forward to reading For the Men and the Women Who Love Them, Rose Caraway’s newest anthology, for months. Now that things on are slowing down as Christmas approaches, I’ve had a few evenings free to read for fun, which is great because it’s the perfect time of year for fun (in both written and unwritten forms), even better when the fun makes a sneaky, subversive point.

The thing I love about Rose Caraways’s anthologies is that they combine balls to the wall, sexy fun with a real social consciousness. The Sexy Librarian believes in sex positivity for all – cis, queer, male, female, trans, old, young, feminists, humanists, conservatives, liberals, proud sluts, monogamous lovers…in other words, pretty much everyone. As a result, she brings a remarkable amount of empathy and positivity to the anthologies she narrates and edits.

For the Men is classic Rose Caraway in that way. I don’t usually say this about erotica anthologies, but seriously, read the introduction. It’s an empowering essay in support of a guy’s right to enjoy erotica just as much as women do – an idea that should be a no brainer, but  is still met with a surprising amount of stigma. Rose Caraway’s passion for inclusive sexuality shines out hard in that introduction, and it sets the perfect tone for the rest of the anthology.

It’s tough to pick a favorite in For the Men, especially when a huge chunk of my favorite authors are in the list of contributors. The Table of Contents literally reads like an all-star list of kick-ass veterans and shiny up-and-comers. Allan Dusk’s freaky, funky, genre-bending fuck fest is like nothing I’ve ever read, which means it’s vintage Allan Dusk. If you’ve never read him before, A. you should and B. “Wayward Drift” is a pretty great place to start.

“73A”, and adorable repair man fantasy by Jade A. Waters has been a favorite of mine since she let me read the first draft (not sure if I should even be admitting to that, but she’s my best friend so whatever. I’d love it even if she weren’t). Same with Tamsin Flowers’s “Rope Burn”. God, that woman knows her stuff. The fact that she can write about sexy barrel racers in a way that makes this city girl sit up is a testament to her talent.

Adrea Core’s gorgeously lush “Dance For Me” brings cage dancing and submission to a completely feline and intuitive conclusion, while Charlie Powell’s “Winning Big” is a sexy, empathetic and deeply touching portrait of the ex that complicates your present as much as your past. I’m not quite sure how to begin describing how much I enjoyed Rachel de Vine’s “The Hitchhiker” but what I can say is that I would love to see more of Hermes and Miss Jezebel in the future. And then there’s “Labyrinth” by Emmanuelle de Maupassant. Oh, this story…monsters, mazes…it’s a lovely, masterful, deeply erotic nod to Greek mythology, and I loved it.

There are so many beauties in here – while the stories I mentioned above are the one’s I especially loved, every single contributor brought it, and the result is an anthology that anyone could love. It’s a truly inclusive collection, one that I could see men enjoying on their own or with their partners. It’s a hell of an achievement and no surprise that Rose Caraway pulled it off and then some.

For the Men and the Women Who Love Them is available in print and ebook from Amazon and Amazon UK, and in audio (narrated by Rose Caraway) at Audible.com.

Review: Highland Pursuits by Emmanuelle de Maupassant

because-beards-coverI read “Highland Pursuits”, Emmanuelle de Maupassant’s contribution to Because Beards, a charity anthology that benefits The Movember Foundation, a few weeks ago, and I have to say that I gobbled it up.

de Maupassant’s novel, The Gentleman’s Club, as well as her collection, Cautionary Tales, established her as a singular voice in the erotica, as did her tireless work surveying erotica writers on all aspects of the genre and craft. She’s become, in a very short time, one of erotica’s leading authorities and champions, so the bar is set quite high on anything she writes. Unsurprisingly, she not only meets but exceeds all expectations once again with “Highland Pursuits”.

Emmanuelle de Maupasant’s erotica is truly different – intelligent, cheeky, sexy and full of the sly charm, qualities that are especially on display in “Highland Pursuits”. It’s as if Stella Gibbons (who wrote Cold Comfort Farm, a snarky, hilarious romp through the English countryside in the 1920’s) had written an erotic romance, with it’s sophisticated, modern girl shipped off to the wilds to make her way.

And yet, for all its tongue-in-cheekiness, the main character truly is modern in that she allows herself different sexual experiences without guilt or shame. By the time the story comes full circle to its properly romantic ending, you have the sense that she has become a young woman in full possession of herself and that any marriage she makes will be one in which she can autonomously enjoy both her own sexuality and that of her husband.

Based on the strength of “Highland Pursuits” I’m greatly looking forward to reading the rest of the collection now that it’s released, all the more so for it’s raising funds for, and awareness of, men’s health issues. Emmanuelle de Maupassant is one of my favorite authors writing in this genre, and I’m pleased to say that my estimation of her grows with every story I read. She is brilliant and different in the best of ways. If you’re looking for “erotica for the discerning mind” she cannot be bested.

Benefit research for men’s healthy issues and Buy Because Beards! It’s available in ebook form at Amazon and Amazon.uk

On Hidden Power: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

News, News, News!

The Swallowing Mansion, Maddie Aflame! Book 1 is now available!

 Not to get all bossy and pushy, but GO BUY IT NOW! You can find it at Amazon, Amazon UK, and at Go Deeper Press.

 And now, for the final post in the Maddie, Aflame! series…

maddieaflamecover300For this final post on Lana Fox’s newly released series, Maddie Aflame!, I want to focus on one of the story’s strongest messages—finding power in weakness.

It won’t spoil anything to say that Maddie struggles with more than an oppressive government with an conservative agenda. She has Combustion Syndrome, a disease that, when triggered, causes her body to combust from the inside out. While the ability to heal is part of the Syndrome, episodes leave her burned and weak, and are, quite honestly, a little terrifying.

By the time the book opens, Maddie has become hyperaware of what triggers the Syndrome and why, but the its aggression has caused Maddie to shrink into herself and fear what is, essentially, an integral part of her body. It doesn’t help that Combustion Syndrome is widely viewed as an affliction and misfortune. It’s certainly not seen as an asset. But, in a lovely turn of fate, the disease that she fears and considers her greatest weakness, may be the only thing that will help her save the people she loves.

As Maddie progresses through the book, she learns to stop fearing the disease and draw strength from it. Sex plays a large role in this and, as she awakens sexually, she finds incomparable power not only in the Syndrome, but in the many ways she can wield it as a defense. She just needs to learn to trust herself.

Maddie’s relationship to Combustion Syndrome also mirrors the struggles faced by the queer community in the series. When the book opens, being LGBTQ makes you vulnerable to attack and victimization. In fact, being queer is seen as a weakness to be exploited and eradicated. But…the vulnerability that comes with being queer in this world is also a source of strength, just like Maddie’s disease.

The sense of strength and unity that the LGBTQ community forms in response to its vulnerability is one of its greatest strengths. In fact, it’s that reactive inner strength that pushes Aud, Raj, Pike and Maddie to tap deep wells of compassion, and it’s that compassion that allows them to fight back.

It’s a useful message for all of us because we all have things that make us feel weak, or vulnerable or at a disadvantage. Life would be much easier if none of us were different, or had challenges to contend with. But we would also be missing opportunities to exercise strengths we didn’t know we had. As a journey of discovery for Maddie, it’s a wonderful lesson for everyone, and the fact that it’s wrapped up in a sexy, fast-paced, cracking adventure, make it all the better.

Other Posts in the Maddie Aflame! series:

On Queer Marginalization: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

On Conformity & Defiance: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

Ghosts, Tech  & Swallowing Mansions: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

 

 

Ghosts, Tech & Swallowing Mansions: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

maddieaflamecover300In my last post on Lana Fox’s new series for Go Deeper Press, Maddie Aflame!, I talked about how sexual fluidity and identity are woven into different aspects for the story. For that post, I focused on the characters, their sexual and gender identities, and their relationships to each other. This time around, I want to focus on the world those characters inhabit.

I’ve written before about how hostile and rigid Maddie’s society is. Right at the outset, the novel’s greatest threat is the systematic assimilation and eradication of LGBTQ citizens. Lana Fox’s dystopia draws deeply from gritty urban fantasies while maintaining a light in the darkness through its characters and their relationships. Yes, magic and tech are used against queer people, but they are also wielded by those same people in defense of themselves and those they love.

So, let’s start with tech. For all that spirituality plays a serious role in the story, technology is right there beside it, helping the protagonists navigate their hostile environment. The tech that appears in Maddie Aflame! is either put to destructive use by the government (think viruses, mind manipulation, and surveillance), or it’s used by the protagonists for protection and communication. This balanced portrayal of everything technology can be, from a literal lifesaver to a tool of oppression, forces the reader to take it on contextual terms, something Lana Fox also asks you to do with its characters.

In a world with sentient buildings and conditions like Combustion Syndrome, where science and spirituality are woven through life in equal measure, ghosts play an interesting role. Maddie’s mother’s ghost comes to her to warn her at various points. Another character hears ghosts and can talk to them. One of the protagonists chooses spiritual over corporeal form. Ghosts are afforded more rights and protections that living queer citizens, and all the while, they represent the societal no man’s land queer people inhabit in the physical world.

In fact, ghosts and spirits gorgeously highlight a number of things in Maddie Aflame!

The ghosts underscore the fluidity I talked about in the last post. Maddie and her friends blur the lines of traditional relationship structures, binary sexual orientations and gender identities. Likewise, the ghosts blur the lines between two static worlds—that of the living, and that of the dead. Their active presence in the story sends the subtle message that not only are the lines of existence blurrier than laws and customs admit, but that bodies (with all of their markers and expectations) are temporary – the soul that occupies the body is what lives on in the world.

And then there’s the sentient mansion. While I don’t want to give too much away, it’s a metaphorical masterstroke that deserves a mention. The mansion, which, for all intents and purposes should be just a normal house, is a feeling, sensing thing, more creature than building, cognitively speaking, as it responds to the emotional state of its occupants. Like magic, tech and ghosts, the mansion bridges a gap and blurs the line between expectation and form to defy its own weaponization, making it not only a compelling character in its own right, but a powerful metaphor for the breaking of traditional worldviews in favor of wider possibility.

In the end, that is one of the most universal messages in the series—that your physical self is not, in reality, a boundary against inhabiting your full self and loving people in the way that is right for every individual relationship. The supernatural elements in Maddie Aflame!, are fabulous allusions that works on every level, particularly because they are woven into the fabric of the world with so much care. The society Maddie lives in is draconian in its adherence to tradition. It makes absolute sense that shadows of an alternate way should defy control and drift around its streets.

Stay tuned next week for my final installment of this short series on Lana Fox’s Maddie Aflame! And stay even more tuned for the first book in the series, coming very, VERY soon from Go Deeper Press!

Other posts in the Maddie Aflame! series:

On Queer Marginalization: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

On Conformity & Defiance: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

UPDATE:

Maddie Aflame! Book One: The Swallowing Mansion is now available!

Go Deeper Press

Amazon

Amazon, UK

On Conformity & Defiance: Lana Fox & Maddie, Aflame!

 

maddieaflamecover300In last week’s post about Lana Fox’s upcoming new series, Maddie, Aflame!, I looked at the roles queer marginalization, community and found families play in Maddie’s world. This week, I’d like to springboard off that topic and talk about gender stereotypes and sexual fluidity, and how they play out in Maddie, Aflame! Hell, while we’re at it, let’s talk about fluidity in relationships too.

One of the most interesting things about Maddie, Aflame! is that the tension between rigid conformity and humanistic fluidity is one of the plot’s main drivers. The antagonists go to great lengths, including kidnapping, murder, and torture, to impose a rigidly traditional social structure on the populace. And yet, beneath that structure, individual people reject conformity in favor of boundless self-acceptance and love. It’s that sense fluidity (in gender and emotional / sexual relationships) that ultimately helps our heroes counter the rigid traditions that threaten them.

It’s a bit tricky to talk about without spoilers, so forgive me for being a little circumspect as regards plot. What I will say is that, while the governing body responsible for the kidnapping and oppression of queer citizens tightens it’s net over the course of the book, Maddie and her friends and lovers slowly discover freedom in their conscious lack of conformity.

When we meet her, Aud, a spiritually minded young woman whose sexual identity defies labeling, is in a loving relationship with her boyfriend, a trans guy named Raj. With these beautifully drawn, deeply humanized, stereotype-defying characters, even the expectation of a traditional relationship is undermined when it’s revealed that they’re non-monogamous. And, while this is new for Maddie, they are so accepting and positive that she finds herself falling for them both.

Their relationship, as well as Maddie’s (absolutely fucking lovely) relationship with Pike, another member of their group, opens her eyes to new ways of engaging partners both sexually and emotionally. In Raj and Aud, she finds two people engaged in a healthy non-traditional relationship, while the fact of their queerness poses a real, imminent threat to their safety. And yet, Lana handles their relationships and identities with such grace that their fluidity acts as a counterpoint to the negativity that surrounds them. These are people who defy the stereotypes attached to the queer label by replacing it with love and openness.

This is an important thing. Maddie Aflame! is a damn sexy series, but it’s also a story that I would hand to anyone, including older teens. It depicts LGBTQ characters and alternative relationships in such a warm, accepting way, that it gently, but effectively, makes the point that labels are tools, not identities. Far more important than a label, is the freedom to be who you are and love whoever you love without falling victim to the fear of gender or social conformity.

The fact that Maddie is attracted to Aud and Raj, doesn’t make her attraction to Pike, a cis male, any less plausible. In fact, her relationship to each of them can best be described as “human” in the very best of ways, defying the constraints of gender, sexuality and even the corporeal body.

We hold onto labels to define ourselves, and labels are incredibly useful. But the defiance of concrete labels through sexual and emotional fluidity is a healthy thing, just as healthy as its traditional converse. The themes of identity, defiance and conformity show up in various genres and in various forms, but I’ve never seen them approached through the lens of gender and sexuality with such openness and frank compassion. It’s both supportive and subversive, and that makes it something special.

We need more portrayals of non-traditional relationships in fiction. We need more characters that aren’t defined by easy-to-digest sexual labels. We need variety in story telling that better reflects humanity in all its various forms. In short, we need more advocacy and education and, though not the point of erotica or sexual literature, the fact that it is such a meaty part of Maddie, Aflame! makes me respect both the story, and its author, all the more.

Next week, I’ll be tackling one of my favorite topics in any genre – world building. Stay tuned….

Update:

Maddie Aflame! Book One: The Swallowing Mansion is now available!

Go Deeper Press

Amazon

Amazon, UK

On Queer Marginalization: Lana Fox & Maddie Aflame!

Disclosure:

I’m in the privileged position of not having to promote a project unless I truly believe in it, so when I do promote a novel or series, it’s because I’d be shoving it into people’s hands if I was still worked in a library or bookstore.

Over the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to read large, addictive chunks of Maddie Aflame!, Lana Fox‘s (a-maze-ing) new work for Go Deeper Press, so I can say with total honesty that I’m a fan. While you may not get Vulcan-level objectivity from me, you can bet that everything I say comes from a place of genuine excitement and admiration.

 

maddieaflamecover300This post is the first in a short series on Lana Fox’s new series, Maddie Aflame! The first book comes out in October, so in the weeks leading up to its release, I’m going to look at some of the ideas and themes Ms. Fox explores in this genre-bending story of a young woman with a dangerous gift.

In an attempt to avoid spoilers, I’m just going to toss some high points at you:

  1. Gorgeously complicated, sexy as fuck characters that break gender stereotypes, sexual stereotypes and all of your grandma’s ideas about what a loving, stable relationship looks like.
  2. A massively oppressive society that values sexual homogeneity more than the safety of its citizens.
  3. Lots of sexy times (in lots of sexy ways).
  4. A mansion that swallows people. No joke.

All of that was enough to pique my interest (especially the mansion. It’s rad), but there’s a lot more to it than sex and hungry houses.

In Maddie Aflame! Lana Fox created a story that draws from the political and cultural realities permeating LBGTQ lives (as well as the cis / straight lives of the people who love and support the LGBTQ community) today. While the story is a sexy, fast-paced adventure through a dystopic, alternate world, the themes that underpin the series reflect serious issues like sexual fluidity, “otherness”, and the struggle to find strength in what the world considers a weakness.

What I especially love about Maddie Aflame!, is that it features something that’s been largely lacking in erotic literature—queer-centered, empowering, inclusive portrayals of characters in their late teens and early twenties. Young adulthood is a challenge, even more so for people who may not conform to societal norms. The fact that Lana Fox tackles those issues here, and did it without sacrificing the book’s compulsive readable-ness is, quite frankly, fucking impressive.

Like I said, I’m a fan.

So, now that you have a spoiler-free sense of the series, I’d like to tackle one of its central themes—queer marginalization and the sense of community that emerges from oppression.

When we meet Maddie, she is fairly alone in a hostile world. She suffers from a dangerous medical condition, her mother’s passed away and her father is gay in a rampantly homophobic society. In this series, LGBTQ people experience everything from institutional and legislative marginalization to violence in the streets. And then they start disappearing.

But inside this social pressure cooker thrive small pockets of community—found families that span every aspect of the LGBTQ spectrum. When Maddie goes on a date with Aud, a girl she’s in a class with, she stumbles into one of these found families and enters into a romantic relationship with Aud and her partner, Raj, that is one of the most supportive and inclusive I’ve ever seen in erotica.

And that’s when everything starts to happen, and Maddie takes her first steps towards freeing both herself from the oppression of her condition, and her society from homophobic repression.

So, here’s what I love about this set-up. The world Maddie lives in is practically defined by queer marginalization. In fact, the overall threat in the series is the eradication and assimilation of LGBTQ citizens. But just as in real life, the marginalized group responds in a beautiful way. Just as with the Stonewall Riots and the early days of AIDS, community becomes a coping strategy and as a strength.

 Marginalization has another effect as well. While oppression is (obviously) meant to weaken a group, small acts of defiance signal a strength that allows emotional and sexual bonds to form—bonds like Maddie’s with her found family of lovers and friends. The fluidity of her relationships with Aud, Raj and their friend, Pike, give Maddie a safe place from which to embark on a rescue mission (see, the people-swallowing house) and explore her body’s ability to generate fire, a condition she’s always seen as a disease.

In a world where magic swallows deviants whole, Lana Fox created the ultimate response—a loving group of people who are committed to each other’s well-being and safety. As in real life, those bonds celebrate the strength inherent to the marginalized community, while underscoring how important it is to take part in and support it.

Next week, I’ll be looking at sexual fluidity and how it informs people and relationships in Maddie Aflame!

Update:

Maddie Aflame! Book One: The Swallowing Mansion is now available!

Go Deeper Press

Amazon

Amazon, UK

Review: Cautionary Tales

Cautionary Tales: Voices from the EdgesCautionary Tales: Voices from the Edges by Emmanuelle de Maupassant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a massive fan of fairy tales and folklore, I knew I was going to enjoy Cautionary Tales. Emmanuelle de Maupassant has a talent for replicating the style and voice of traditional fables while applying them to stories that are entirely new. The thing that I loved most about this collection was that, while all of the stories are original to the author, they carried the familiar weight of existing traditions. These are not the Disney-fied narratives of the early 20th century. de Maupassant’s tales draw from Eastern European legends while her voice and narrative style evoke everything that is dark and wonderful about the original Grimms’. As a result, I kept getting the uncanny feeling that I should know the stories in the collection, even though they twisted and bit and surprised me again and again.

All of the stories are excellent, but one stood out among all the rest for me – Against Faithlessness. de Maupassant strikes the pitch perfect balance between rapacious sexuality and moral justice by using one to feed the other. It’s a fantastically imagined story, one that draws from the dark, nasty traditions of justice, edification, and simmering sexuality common to folkloric traditions. I also appreciated that, in addition to the tales themselves, de Maupassant provides additional materials such as a glossary and a beautifully informative introduction. While the collection can certainly be enjoyed without delving into them, these extras provide a wonderful context for the curious reader.

As with her novella, The Gentleman’s Club, Emmanuelle de Maupassant has done something unique with Cautionary Tales. She’s taken a literary tradition and transcribed it for the sexual landscape of the present day. No one does this as well as she does, and I look forward to reading much more of her work.

Buy Cautionary Tales

Review: Show Yourself To Me by Xan West

Cover for Show Yourself to MeThere are authors I read because I want to escape, and there are those I read because I want to do the opposite. Xan West is one of the latter. I’ve admired West’s work since I read their story in one of the first erotic anthologies I was ever published in. When I had the good fortune to meet West at a reading for that book’s release, I was not only charmed, but deeply impressed. Xan West is one of the most aware human beings I’ve ever met, and that awareness runs through every line they write.

Reading Show Yourself to Me, Xan West’s new collection for Go Deeper Press, was the sort of experience I’ve come to expect from reading their work – deeply affecting and, in many ways, transcendent. The characters that populate these stories are so unflinchingly realized that they are, at times, painful in their humanity. And therein lies the beauty of this collection – it is a raw, glorious slice of what it is to be human. You don’t have to be kinky, queer, trans, dominant, submissive or sexually fluid in any way to relate to these characters or the situations they navigate. You simply have to be a person open to feeling.

There are a lot of ways one could read this collection. It covers multiple issues with a political awareness, hierarchical sensitivity and sexual fluidity that is, quite frankly, stunning. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could write essays on these stories, but, for the purposes of this review, I’m going to narrow my focus and talk about one of the things I loved best about this collection – West’s portrayal of D/s dynamics. In fact, I’ve never seen such a beautiful array of strong bottoms and vulnerable tops in one book before.

Whether it’s the dominant narrator reminiscing about his first experiences as a bottom in “Missing Daddy”, the top switching for a special and very trusted dom in “My Will”, a top recovering from a terrible break-up in “First Time Since” or the dominant narrator’s complicated relationship with his own nature in “My Precious Whore”, West gives us people, not labels. As a dominant woman attracted to strength in submissives, I saw myself in more than a few of these stories, and was relieved to read the longing, vulnerability and ethical struggle that often goes unacknowledged in popular portrayals of tops. But then, I would be an idiot to expect anything less from Xan West.

I’m the first to admit that I’m attracted to emotional catharsis and difficult works, and I would be lying if I said that this is the sort of collection you fly through and put down unchanged. For all the intense vulnerability and humanity in these pages, these stories  are raw, filthy, violent and fucking sexy. It is, quite literally, the whole package as far as the human experience goes.

If you are interested in deeply considered, politically aware erotica that is as edgy as it gets, I can’t recommend Show Yourself to Me enough. And I would likewise recommend looking Xan West up at their site, Kink Praxis, especially if this collection leaves you hungry for more information. There are few kink practicers as ethically committed as West. Combine that with their ability to write surgically perfect prose while slicing into the emotional guts of a piece and you couldn’t ask for someone more qualified to write sex, power and the human experience.

Book Description:

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.

Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.

Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.

Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.

This is Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.

Xan West’s Official Site

Stops on the Tour:
October 1: Xan West https://xanwest.wordpress.com/
October 2: Book Birthday! Go Deeper Press http://godeeperpress.com/
October 3: Heather Elizabeth https://kinkopedia.wordpress.com/
October 4: Sinclair Sexsmith http://www.sugarbutch.net/
October 5: Hermia Swann http://www.cuntext.com/
October 6: Dilo Keith https://dilokeith.wordpress.com/ and Cecilia Tan http://blog.ceciliatan.com/
October 7: Kinky Brits http://thekinkybrits.com/
October 8: Stella Harris http://stellaharris.net/
October 9: F. Leonora Solomon https://fdotleonora.wordpress.com/
October 10: Tasha Harrison http://tashalharrison.com/
October 11: Benji Bright http://www.theeroticledger.com/
October 12: Tamsin Flowers http://tamsinflowers.com/ and Karida http://submissionandthecity.com/
October 13: Cassandra Perry http://cassandrajperry.com/
October 14: Peep Scoop http://www.peepscoop.com/ and Radical Access Mapping Project https://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/
October 15: Sugar Cunt http://www.sugarcuntwrites.com/
October 16: Emily Byrne http://writeremilylbyrne.blogspot.com/
October 17: Oleander Plume http://poisonpendirtymind.com/
October 18: K. A. Smith https://authorka.wordpress.com/
October 19: Giselle Renarde http://donutsdesires.blogspot.com/
October 20: Butchtastic Kyle http://www.butchtastic.net/
October 21: Lisabet Sarai http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com/
October 22: Syrens https://syrens.wordpress.com/
October 23: Anna Sky http://www.iamannasky.com/
October 24: Jade A. Waters http://jadeawaters.com/
October 25: Kal Cobalt http://kal-cobalt.squarespace.com/
October 26: Rebekah Weatherspoon http://www.rebekahweatherspoon.com/
October 27: Malin James http://malinjames.com/
October 28: BD Swain http://www.bdswain.com/ and Jillian Boyd http://jillianboydauthor.wordpress.com/
October 29: Kaleigh Trace http://thefuckingfacts.com/
October 30: Kiki DeLovely https://kikidelovely.wordpress.com/
October 31: Xan West https://xanwest.wordpress.com/ and Annabeth Leong http://annabetherotica.com/

Buy the Book:

For ebook or print copies at Go Deeper Press:

For ebook on Amazon

You can also find Show Yourself to Me at Barnes & Noble