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I love erotica. For me, “reading porn” is better than watching it. I get to imagine things with my own spin on them, and reading really helps me to connect with the characters. I was so excited to read Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4. The 2018 edition, written by women about women, certainly did not disappoint!
Rachel Kramer Bussel does a great job, yet again, of gathering the sexiest short stories. While not all of these stories met my idea of a fantasy, each touched me in some way, whether it was through the sex, the romance, the characters, the diversity, the themes, or some combination of those. In each story, a woman is the main character, and she embraces her sexuality head-on.
This is a quick read at 256 pages. Each story took me about five or ten minutes to read, and I was engrossed for every single one. In each story, a woman takes control of her sexuality and fantasies. These women are strong in their own unique ways, perhaps no one more physically so than Amy, the professional bull rider heroine in “Eight Seconds”.
Sometimes the story is filled with character development, like in “Mark” by Rosie Beth Randall, where Diana faces her emotions and desires with Dominant Mark. Other times, the plot is such a focal point, like in “Aftershock” by Jo Henny Wolf. Tessa visits her boyfriend in Mexico City in the aftermath of an earthquake, and while the sex and romance is a big part of this story, it’s told through the lens of the fear, grief, shock, and love Tessa feels.
And then there are stories where the plot is more along the lines of sexy and fun, like Mica Kennedy’s “Take The Shot”, about professor Nina, sexy young TA Josh, and the BDSM photo-shoot they participate in. There are also stories that jump straight to the point, like “The Dressing Room” by Alessandra Torre, in which a woman overhears a couple having exhibitionist sex and explores her own desire. And there are also stories that fall somewhere between the spectrum of plotty and to-the-point, like “With Honors” by Sofia Quintero.
The diversity in these stories is what really blew me away. So many forms of sexual expression are revealed as well as the points of view of many different types of characters. “O Captain! My Captain” by Calliope Bloom features a narrator with a disability as well as her bisexual crush. “Belonging” by Tamsen Parker explores bisexuality and Catholicism. “Seven Sweets and Seven Sours” by Megan Hart is about Mary, who is trans and Amish. And “Her Invisible Prison” by Jocelyn Dex discusses agoraphobia.
A number of these stories involve characters older than your typical romance novel stars, which is so refreshing. Main characters range in age from their twenties to their fifties. The chemistry between two middle-aged college professors in “Words with Benefits” by Tamara Lush was super intense. Important themes are brought up in these stories, too, such as gentrification in “Protest of Passion” by Eliza David.
I also really enjoyed the accurate portrayal of kink in this book. I have limited experience in the world of BDSM and kink, but from what I’ve seen, it’s not like what you read in romance novels about billionaires who attend swanky clubs. (That sphere might exist, but it’s certainly never a world I’ll see.) The play parties in “On Display” by Louise Lagris and “Beautiful Dirty Wonderful” by R. M. Wood seem more like what I’ve seen and heard about from kinkster friends. Patricia Elzie’s “Breathe” and Sienna Saint-Cyr’s “Baby Doll” explore meeting play partners online and negotiating limits and expectations.
While I “got something” out of each of these stories, there were some that I particularly enjoyed. I found “The Jump” by Rebecca Chase and “The Pick-Me-Up” by Suleikha Snyder to be so relatable. Break-ups, rebound sex, and bar flings are all experiences I have had that were touched on between these two stories. “The Invitation” by Regina Kammer takes place in 1880, and I am a sucker for a good bodice-ripper. Plus, I like that this story was about a middle-aged widow rather than the sort of virginal character that usually is the leading lady in historical romance. Finally, I’ve been dying to read Alyssa Cole, so her sci-fi story “Essential Qualities” really excited me, even though this isn’t my usual genre.
I am so thankful that I got to check out this book. It was a fun, easy read that really helped me explore my sexuality and think about my desires. Each story had something amazing about it that will stick with me. If you want to support women authors writing with other women in mind – and get turned on while doing so – then I highly recommend this year’s volume of Best Women’s Erotica.