Dream Lover: Paranormal Tales of EroticRomance
What these seventeen surprisingly
diverse stories all have in common is atmosphere—and that in luxurious groaning-board
abundance. It’s the kind of rich, erotically charged ambiance that stays with a
reader long after the book has been closed or the electronic device turned off,
and, like the memory of the tastes and aromas of a great meal, lingers
pleasantly in the imagination, waiting to be called up (or re-read) again and
again. (I was surprised, in compiling my notes for this review, at how easily I
could recall and summarize each tale, some weeks after first encountering them.)
Editor Kristina Wright has accomplished something quite remarkable, in recruiting
so conspicuously gifted a group of writers, producing an anthology that is not
only immediately entertaining and satisfyingly sexy at every turn, but a
collection of true and lasting literary merit.
And what a profuse, colorful patchwork
of mood and voice! From Shanna Germain’s masterful Devil’s Food with its comically-tinged tale of sugar-jonesing
fairies and wise-cracking frogs, to Delilah Devlin’s feverishly wet-bodied
reimagining of The Little Mermaid (Dreaming by the Sea), to Justine Elyot’s
Resurrection in which a young woman seeks out the ghost of a Byron-esque
poet in the house he continues to haunt:
then her eyelids were sliding and the curtain billowed, and she was pinned down
by the invisible force again, calling the serpentine sibilance into her ears,
letting it pour into her head and fill her body.
sound streamed toward her, a flow of movement that she could follow, crossing
from the curtains to the bed, where it loomed over her for long minutes as if
waiting for a sign, perhaps an indication of consent.
good in life leads to madness. I think you understand that, Freya. I think that’s
why you’ve come here and freed me from my bondage.”
Freya had a fleeting, rather titillating vision of Lucien’s fine eyes bound in
black satin while his wrists struggled against silken cords.
was a foolish boy. I experimented with forces I should have left well alone. I
participated in rituals and made bargains. I lost the bargains.”
No less impressive or erotically irresistible,
in spite of their more seemingly ordinary characters and settings, are the
stories by A.D.R. Forte (Rainmaker)
in which a young woman must reluctantly return to her childhood home and seek
out an old lover in order to fulfill her quasi-divine destiny, and Craig J.
Sorensen’s tale of two lonely souls (one living, one not-quite-departed)
encountering each other in a genuine ghost town (Shattered Belle). The haunted house mythos gets its due as well. In Living Off Lovers, Kristina Lloyd skillfully
delves the many possible meanings of her title with a story set in a decrepit ‘30s-era
apartment building, where two current tenants find themselves under the spell
of a pair of ghostly star-crossed lovers, and the dark secrets that lie hidden
behind the building’s decaying Art Deco facades. And Kate Pearce’s Folly draws us to a crumbling,
castle-like mansion along with her heroine, to discover the beautiful soul of a
lover trapped within its ancient stones.
The thrill of sensual discovery virtually
leaps from the page in Victoria Jannsen’s Vanilla, a sci-fi inflected narrative of a steamy and unusually sweet encounter between
two empaths, and Lana Fox’s For Humans,
Love’s All About Weight, a deliciously imagined tale of an unexpected
bequest and a wild air-born fling. A bit more melancholy and bittersweet, if no
less lubricious, is Madeline Moore’s Lust
as Old as Us, about a woman’s life-long affair with a vampire who cannot
grow old, but refuses to grow up. And in Kristina Wright’s own contribution, Thief of Dreams, insomnia threatens a
woman’s relationship with an angelic, albeit fallen, lover. The collection offers a nod to High Fantasy as
well. When a demon comes to collect her elfin lover’s soul, a woman must take
drastic action to protect him and keep him for herself in Erika Hiatt’s The Eye of Pearl.
My personal favorite of the whole lot is
probably Saachi Green’s Freeing the Demon,
a marvelously conceived piece of storytelling, in which a beautiful young
working girl discovers the presence of an insatiable demonic entity imprisoned
within one of the gargoyles ornamenting her apartment building.
thought fleetingly of pulling back. How could she bear it if this hot tide
never flooded into release? But it was all she had to give. Besides, it was too
nipples jutted from her round full breasts, yearning desperately for the stroke
of hands that could not reach out, for the hot tug and press and bite of a
mouth frozen in stillness. Her fingers teased their tips into greater, harder
unbearable tension, while her palms still cupped the swelling fullness. She
thrust against her own hands and moaned, again and again, until a deeper echo
sounded from the stone before her and she raised her eyes.
My only disappointments here were,
surprisingly, with the stories by two otherwise well-regarded and usually very
reliable authors. (And I really do hate having to mention this.) Alana Noel
Voth’s Moon Girl Meets the Wolfman is
a surreal, quasi-flow-of-consciousness shape shifting narrative. For the life
of me, I could not make sense of what was going on. (Maybe that’s the point?)
And, granted, this may well be due to my own lack of perception rather than any
fault of the writer. Not so, Lucy Felthouse’s Succubus Comes Home, which reads like an early draft of a story in
serious want of editing. The writing is so heavily freighted with common clichés
and irritatingly repetitive syntactical constructions that I simply could not
get through to the end. Interesting as both stories might potentially be, they
need some work in order to rise to the level of the other entries in this
These minor complaints aside, my overall
impression? Ravishing, sometimes extravagantly imaginative, the stories in Dream Lover will haunt the reader in the
most welcome of ways. Highly recommended!