Sunday, November 17, 2013

Review of "Dream Lover: Paranormal Tales of Erotic Romance" (ed. Kristina Wright)

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  Love Resurrection in which a young woman seeks out the ghost of a Byron-esque poet in the house he continues to haunt:

And 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.

The 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.

“Everything 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.”

“Bondage?” Freya had a fleeting, rather titillating vision of Lucien’s fine eyes bound in black satin while his wrists struggled against silken cords.

“I 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.  

Jayne 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 late.

Hard 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 anthology.

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!

No comments:

Post a Comment