Perfect light summer reading, here are two well-written, entertainingly steamy erotic romps with accessible, down-to-earth storylines, realistic, relatable characters, and a surprisingly intense turn-on factor. (Let’s be frank here; I read so much erotica for review that it is quite rare any more for me to experience a physical reaction. The philosopher David Hume spoke of “the proper observer” of a work of art; the observer who, under the right conditions, can appreciate, understand, or simply “get” what an artist is trying to do, and, even when it comes to erotica, oftentimes I wonder if I am that proper observer. Here, my body left little doubt about my ability to “get it”, exhibiting the kind of reaction I'm pretty sure both authors were looking to elicit when they sat down to work, or, at least, the male equivalent of that reaction, which is certainly a credit to their descriptive abilities.)
On a more cerebral level, what I like about both stories, is that these authors have made an effort to get into their heroine’s heads, and stay there, describing not only the complex of novel physical sensations each experiences, but their emotional response to those sensations, their (usually futile) attempts to put them into some kind of rational context. (How will feeling this way affect my life? How will doing this thing that is objectively so wrong, but feels so damn good change my relationship with the other people in my life?)
Both authors tell their stories from the point of view of a sexually-frustrated heroine. Elizabeta Brooke’s Susan and Nadia M. Joliet’s Ariel are both self-described “good girls” who (initially at least) would “never do anything, you know, like that”. Stifled by claustrophobic convention, hemmed in by inhibitions too-long unquestioned, both women are in or recently escaped from unsatisfying relationships with inadequate (lazy, unimaginative, unmotivated, cheating, out-of-shape) significant others to whom they constantly compare the exciting, mysterious, handsome, oh-so sexually adventuresome strangers they encounter. It’s sheer escapism, and clearly resonates with many readers.
While not as yet a highly prolific author, Elizabeta Brooke is nonetheless one of the most accomplished young eroticists to appear on the scene in the last few years. Her brilliant debut novel Never: An Erotic Retelling of Peter Pan, and her beautifully crafted short story, Poe, have stayed with me like the most pleasant of memories, and are among the first titles I think of when asked to list the very best of contemporary erotica. In this new short story, Knock: An Erotic House Call, Brooke stakes out somewhat more conventional, less rarefied fantasy real-estate, considerably lighter in tone and feel than her earlier outings, perhaps more broadly accessible, but still, as expected, impeccably written while ever viscerally engaging.
The general plot description makes the story sound mundane, almost like a softcore vignette, far more ordinary than it truly is. Susan, a thirtysomething housewife, reduced to selling cosmetics door-to-door (what in the states we call an Avon Lady) rings her best friend’s bell, only to be met at the front door by the friend’s handsome eighteen-year-old son in nothing but a towel . . . and you can probably guess where things go from there. Except that Brooke has a few interesting new twists and turnabouts with which to surprise her readers. The story is too short either to excerpt or fully synopsize, so I will simply recommend the book, and let readers happily discover those twists on their own.
Nadia M. Joliet’s Year Abroad (Parts 1-4) falls comfortably inside the lines of erotic-romance convention; pure genre fiction, but genre fiction at a high level of competence and craftswomanship that sets it pleasantly if not-too-far apart. Ariel, an American YUPPIE, fresh from a bad breakup and the subsequent dissolution of her stolidly predictable life, seeks new experience in the tourist hostels and on the beaches along Australia’s eastern coast. Needless to say, there are lots of “hot guys” to help Ariel get her groove back, with very little in the way of inhibition or plot conflict to interfere with their good times. Of course, we get the romance heroine’s never-ending self-doubt, the obsessive-compulsive second-guessing, and the perpetual analysis of every move the current object of her fancy does or doesn’t make, with lots—I mean LOTS—of good, vigorous, rafter-rattling sex in between. It’s good, it’s fun, it’s undeniably lubricious, and well worth a look.