Steamy Pages: Four Erotic Anthologies
Being spring and all, why not take stock of what's new in story compilations? Berkeley-based Cleis Press always keeps readers in good shape when it comes to their annual (and consistently affordable) paperback romance and erotic fiction anthologies, featuring a healthy stable of new and already well-established LGBT writers.
The ladies are up first, led by Bold Strokes Books president and eight-time Lambda Literary Award finalist (in romance, mystery and erotica) and winner (romance and erotica) Radclyffe. Her assemblage of almost two dozen "Best Lesbian Romance" stories is an impressive literary treat, and will make for some great bedside-table reading.
Among the standouts are Jane Fletcher's tale of two girls hatching a mutual plan of escape in "The Things You Don't Do"; Shimura's sensuous, first-person-narrated "Adventure"; a touching and taboo story of love blossoming in the country in D. Jackson Leigh's "The Pond"; and the affecting closing stories: "Study Group" by editor Radclyffe, about collegiate dorm life in the off-season, which straddles the line between romance and erotica; and Kathleen Tudor's joyful marriage of two women in "A Boi's Love Song."
Boys in love are a different breed indeed, and dual editors Timothy Lambert and R.D. Cochrane have embarked on quite a feat in assembling these lustful tales of cruising, catching, and consummating love in "Best Gay Romance." West Hollywood sets the scene for young love set against the backdrop of Proposition 8 protests in Eric Gober's "Strange Propositions," closely followed by affecting entries by well-known authors like Jameson Currier, Felice Picano, Rob Byrnes, and Alex Jeffers. Also of note is local San Francisco novelist Lewis Desimone offering "Quality Time," which follows a gay single father at odds with how to introduce his partner to his young daughter without causing a riff in the whole family. It's a wonderful tale about the intricacies of biological and chosen families, but this one actually has a satisfyingly happy ending.
Turning up the heat has never been a problem for Larry Duplechan, a talented Los Angeles-based artist and novelist, and the distinguished co-editor (with sexy former Mr. International Daddy Bear title-holder Joe Mannetti) of "Best Gay Erotica"'s 19 provocative pieces. Duplechan fills the huge shoes formerly occupied by Cleis Press erotica editor Richard Labonte, who has decided to curtail his participation in the series. While it's a daunting task, Duplechan and Mannetti have assembled a hot and heavy collection of man-on-man sex stories and artwork in this 2014 incarnation. Along those same lines is editor Shane Allison's "Nasty Boys," a collection of 17 vignettes centered on a dirtier, skankier, more rough-and-tumble type of man.
The unlucky power failure in Lee Hitt's opener sets the scene for that sweaty-bearded/horny repairman fantasy festering in so many fertile imaginations, as does editor Allison's own steamy entry set in an adult bookstore featuring an insatiable, cum-hungry patron. Dale Lazarov and Jason Quest offer a graphic, roughly-drawn entry featuring men in various stages of sweaty, semen-soaked encounters with other men, all sexually engaged and smiling ear-to-ear. The gay bathhouse in Eric Del Carlo's tale packs as much of a steamy punch as the chicken coop in David Holly's imagination, and collectively, there's enough nastiness here to pacify the horniest reader.
The dirtier boys looking for trouble take over in Allison's book, starting out with some hot grinding with hung Persian hottie Sadiq in Wes Hartley's steamer, followed by Rob Rosen's heady spanking fantasy and K. Lynn's medically-themed romp in "Doctor's Orders." Zippers descend easily throughout these rowdy, randy pieces, and what lies beneath is reliably weighty and ready for action.
There simply isn't enough newspaper space to extoll all of the virtues of these anthologies; there is something for every taste under the rainbow contained within the pages of these compilations. Whether you're looking for a sweet tale of adoration or a rollicking, lip-smacking, hypersexual yarn to make you work up a sweat, these impressive volumes don't disappoint.
Best Lesbian Romance edited by Radclyffe
Best Gay Romance edited by Timothy J. Lambert and R.D. Cochrane
Best Gay Erotica edited by Larry Duplechan & Joe Mannetti
Nasty Boys: Rough Trade Erotica edited by Shane Allison; all Cleis Press, $15.95