Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Irresistible edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Irresistible: Erotic Romance for Couples
edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel

"I wanted to explore what happens after [meeting], once those people have been together a while (even a short while)," Rachel Kramer Bussel writes in her introduction to Irresistible. "I wanted to see what sparks fictional couples could produce on the page, and the results are, well, scorching." I'd never really thought about it before, but I suppose one would more often see "two people meet" stories in erotica rather than stories about established couples. Funny how a common state of existence can suddenly seem so novel. Irresistible focuses mainly on heterosexual, monogamous couples, but the results are far from boring, and other sexual variances make their way into fray. The writing is mostly strong, and most every story is satisfying.

One of the more interesting stories is "Hypocrites" by Alyssa Turner. In it, a politician must endure a humiliating sex scandal press conference, while his wife stands by his side. While she watches him speak, she thinks about everything they have done together:

His words make me cringe. Jacob never broke a promise in his life. For my birthday, he promised to take me shopping and we found the most adorable twenty-something football-player type among the endless selection of eligible swingers profiled online. The anonymity of the web had provided us a smorgasbord of eager participants. Young and dumb seemed like the safest bet, with fear of recognition easily dismissed by a low aptitude for congressional upstarts. We met Brett first for a late lunch, testing the waters, then moved onward to a hotel room tucked away in an obscure suburban corporate park.

Could that evening have been more perfect? The answer came the following year after our guest list increased to two. When the allure of birthday parties became too great to enjoy only once a year, we secured a discreet apartment downtown for the sole purpose of hosting gatherings as often as we could.

It's a great (and rather hot) take on a situation we often see in the news, but don't really know the true story. Nor should we, really, but then, I'm one of those people who believes that whatever you do in bed shouldn't reflect on your professional life, as long as everyone is safe and happy.

There are stories of makeup sex after affairs, strip club ventures, and sex party attendance. There's a little bit of BDSM, and there's even sex in a tree, which, to me, seems a bit more trouble than it would be worth. Also notable is Janine Ashbless' "Repaint the Night," in which outdoor sex is used to get over a fear of being alone in the dark. It's not my favorite in terms of the writing, but I like the different premise.

One story that I initially rolled my eyes at while reading the opening paragraph ended up being one of the better ones in the book. "Six Eyes, Two Ears," by Kris Adams, is set within some sort of tribal village during an indeterminate time. There are names like "Xolani" and "Babatunde," and I'll admit I got judge-y — I thought I wasn't into some sort of mythical... I don't know, rustic sex, but my assumptions turned out to be incorrect. "Six Eyes, Two Ears," has the only male-on-male sexual contact in the book, and it also takes power dynamic in a positive direction. Two wives of a male leader at first are in competition with one another until they realize that their complaints lie with their husband's dismissive attitude towards their pleasure. Then, the younger wife discovers that their husband is also sleeping with a male servant. Even though her husband is a jerk, and she's shocked by seeing them together, she can't stop watching. It's not the only sex scene in the story, and really, this is one of the most fully realized plot-centric stories in the book in that it's not just, "Hey, let's have sex!" and scene.

"Six Ears, Two Eyes," isn't the only bisexual story in Irresistible, but the stories with bisexual elements typically involve women. That's great, me being a lady who also appreciates ladies and all, but I'd love to see more erotica writers take on male bisexuality. Admittedly, I'm not well-versed in erotica beyond what is sent to me, but bi men are definitely underrepresented in what I've read. The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this review, but I do hope to eventually see bisexual stories become less invisible in any sort of writing, erotica or otherwise.

Other highlights include "Pink Satin Purse" by Donna George Storey, "The Mitzvah" by Tiffany Reisz, and "The Pact" by Elizabeth Coldwell. I had trouble getting into Kay Jaybee's "After the Massage," but doesn't have anything to do with the quality of writing. Some of the sex happens in a van filled with plumbing equipment — one of the women involved has a fetish for tradesmen — and pipes and plumbing tools just creep me out. I know that this is an irrational aversion, but believe me, it's a strong one. I mean, I finished the story, but in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, "There's no way I could be in there. No matter what hotness is involved." But hey, everyone's got a hangup, right?


Overall though, Irresistible is well worth the time if you're looking for some good erotica with a decent amount of variety. It's light on the bondage, if that's not really your thing, and yes, it is nice to read something that isn't "lust at first sight" for a change. At 200 pages, it's also a quick read, and easy enough to jump around to find something you like at that moment.

(Side note: Is it just me, or were the cover models chosen for their resemblance to Taylor Lautner and a younger Catherine Zeta-Jones? Also, what's up with the wind machine?)

Full Disclosure: Cleis Press sent me this book. I thank them for the gesture, and I will continue to be fair with my reviews.


This review is part of Pajiba's Cannonball Read, in which participants aim to read and review 13, 26 or 52 books within one year.

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