Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance, edited by Mitzi Szereto. Tempted Romance. (February 2014).
There are collections that you read anytime, and those you save for when you’re in a certain mood. They aren’t for everyday, but when you’re ready for them, they’re perfect. It’s sort of like the difference between drinking a glass of wine while you cook dinner and drinking a Kir Royale while you order your steak.
Darker Edge of Desire: Gothic Tales of Romance, Mitzi Szereto’s newest anthology for Cleis Press’s Tempted Romance imprint, is one of those collections that fits into the latter category. It’s all black velvet, moonlight and Kir Royale. Now, I’m going to be honest – this collection is not going to appeal to everyone, nor, as I’ve already implied, is it going to fit every mood. That said, if you have a fondness for Poe, gothic mansions, murderous husbands and lovely women committed to insane asylums of questionable repute, this will very likely suit you.
The anthology as a whole works because Ms. Szereto knows the subgenre very well, and her familiarity with gothic literature is evident in her choices. While all of the stories are reasonably good to excellent, the ones that truly stood out for me are those that nod directly at the gothic literature of the 19th century – “The Wicked Wife” by T.C. Mill, Adrien Ludens’s “Reynold’s Tale”, “Moonfall” by Rose de Fer and “Lightening in a Bottle” by Kim Knox.
These modern decedents of Poe, Bluebeard and Walpole made me smile as much as they turned me on. Let me clarify – they made me smile the smile of a lit. geek who majored in the Victorian novel. Intellectually, I enjoyed their cleverness as much as I emotionally and sexually enjoyed the hotness of the scenarios. Other standouts where “Blood Soup” by Benji Bright and “Devoured by Envy” by Jo Wu, based purely on the strength of the writing and the way the stories pulled me in. I’d have loved there to be more of both.
On the whole, I enjoyed the collection a great deal, but with that I have to acknowledge the fact that I have the occasional taste for the baroque, dark and gothic. If what I’ve described intrigues, then I would say that Darker Edge of Desire will be your cup of tea. That said, its appeal is pretty specific, so if you’re not into sex tinged with werewolves, revenge and mystery, I might suggest trying something else. For the right reader though, this collection is a treat.
You can find The Darker Edge of Desire at the following purveyors of fine erotic literature: