edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel
In more than one magazine article or online advice post, I've seen writers suggest that, if one is having trouble with their usual sex life, that they try mimicking the hotel room environment at home. No laundry laying around, no family photos — as much as possible, make the bedroom as utilitarian and not “you.” The idea is that the blank slate will take you out of your regular life and open up new possibilities, and perhaps — no, hopefully — that will translate into super hot sex.
Let's be real; hotel sex is pretty great. One does not have lingering thoughts like, Did I pull dinner out of the freezer? or Is the dog getting in the trash again? The articles often make the suggestion that, if the couple can afford it, checking into a room for the night can do wonders. And even if a couple's sex life is just fine, really good, or even great, a hotel room is a fun change in scenery.
Suite Encounters is an erotica collection that encompasses all sorts of sexy ways people make use of hotel and motel rooms, with a variety of gender pairings, sexualities, and scenarios. Ages, locations, and backstories vary enough to offer a little something for everyone, but not so much that the changes are jarring. Not every story was for me, but the book is one of the better erotica collections I've read.
The story title that intrigued me right away was “Air Conditioning. Color TV. Live Mermaids” by Anna Meadows. I live in a city with a bar that does indeed feature “live mermaids.” Did someone write about the O'Haire Motor Inn and the Sip 'n Dip lounge?
MERMAID HOTEL. HOME OF DIVE IN THE DESERT.
Ah, curses! Montana is not so much the desert. The story itself seems to be more about the novelty of someone who works as a mermaid. At one point, the woman says that the hotel uses salt water instead of chlorine because it's “cheaper,” but I'm not sure if that's true. Yes, this is a fantasy, and here I am fact-checking, but I guess that since I was disappointed that this wasn't the Sip 'n Dip and that the sex was written about in a more restrained way (when it comes to erotica), I noticed more things about which to quibble.
Speaking of quibbles and what we allow in fantasy — I really dislike reading descriptions of characters that feel like survey answers put into sentence form: “Six feet three inches of dark-haired, blue-eyed Australian hunk.” I do not fucking care how tall he is down to the inch. Does it make a difference in how he has sex? If this story is not about a height fetish, then it does not matter. That and rampant adjective abuse is a problem in a lot of erotica, and it takes me out of the story.
Let's talk about the good: “Soundproof” by Emily Moreton features a bisexual man who gets off on hearing a couple having loud sex in the next room. Bisexual men — full-on, acknowledged bi men who are not at all conflicted about it — are such a rarity in any media that this story immediately became one of my favorites. Moreton even uses the phrase “equal opportunity,” which made me want to high-five the page.
There are stories where the people already know each other, stories with strangers who just can't help themselves, and also ones with co-workers making business more fun. I liked that not everyone is a skinny, hot 23-year-old, and not every room was a swanky suite. None of this “Let's pretend we're rich and have nothing better to do.” Rachel Kramer Bussel has edited this collection well, and one can tell that it's a topic that not only excites her, but that it excited enough submitting writers to where Suite Encounters does not appear to have filler. Cleis Press puts out a shed-load of books per year, many edited by Bussel, and finding quality erotica writers that match the theme needed must be a challenge sometimes. Because of that, I'm always more impressed when the collection feels balanced. It's not kink-heavy for those who are a little BDSM-averse, but it is not free of kink either. Those stories are introductory Dominance and submission, if you will. Other stories are more “traditionally” romantic, and then there is the offering from Delilah Devlin, “Tailgating at The Cedar Inn,” which is all about the hookup (in a two men-one woman configuration, no less).
I can't tell you your own desires, but I can tell you that I liked it. The hotel room is a fantastic setting around which to assemble a short stories (erotica or otherwise), and Suite Encounters (if you'll forgive my word play here) provides above-and-beyond service.
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 Cannonball Read V, in which participants attempt to read and review 52, 26, or 13 books in a year. A charitable donation is made for those who complete 52 reviews by December 31, 2013.