Book Lovers: Sexy Stories from Under the Covers
Edited by Shawna Kenney
Featuring Multiple Authors
Source: Review by Request
ARC Provided by the Publisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Forget poorly written prose and clichéd love scenes: Book Lovers answers the call for sexy literature with substance. This collection of toe-curling tales written by and for word-worshippers offers well-crafted fiction and creative nonfiction that connects literature to libido. From a Vonnegut-inspired tryst to an imaginary ménage à trois with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin, the book encompasses a veritable buffet of literary fantasies.
Whether they’re conjuring Junot Díaz between the sheets or dreaming of a modern-day enactment of Wuthering Heights—this time refusing Edgar in favor of lusty, bodice-ripping nights with Heathcliff—the stories in Book Lovers are designed for readers’ brains and bodies.
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A STUNNING COLLECTION OF BOOK LOVE!
The stated purpose of this work was to create a collection of stories of an erotic nature which are elegantly written. I say, with out reservation, that the goal has been stunningly achieved. Finding love, lust, and heartbreaking romance in the pages of a book,
…or in the retelling of a familiar tale
…or literally betwixt the shelves of a library,
…or told through the poetry written by lovers,
…or through letters to the authors themselves.
At times playful, poignant, whimsical, sensual, humorous, and curious…
“The thing is, I recently came to develop an extratextual relationship with a favorite short-story anthology.” He hesitated. “An erotica anthology.”
– Spoken by the character Phillip in the story “Whom” by Jeremy Edwards
This collection is perfect for the vastly read; the stories reference so many Authors across multiple Genres: Judy Blume, Jane Austen, Sappho, Emily Brontë, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edgar Allan Poe, Junot Díaz, James Joyce, Kurt Vonnegut, Julio Cortázar, William Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Anaïs Nin, Henry Rollins, Leonard Cohen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Carol Queen, Tristan Taormino, Sophie Morgan, Mark Z. Danielewski, Ernest Hemingway, Mary Shelley, Jack Kerouac, Vladimir Nabokov, and several others.
I often find it difficult to review anthologies… Especially considering Book Lovers features twenty-three individual authors with distinct styles and subject matter. Collections with diverse stories such as those found here require an approach all their own. In an effort to do justice to these stories, I will be reviewing the individual sections laid out by Editor Shawna Kenney.
I was throughly blown away by the majority of these authors. While not all resonated with me, I think that really just speaks to the fact that there is something in this collection for everyone.
I was practically giddy with enjoyment over her compilation.
I was enthralled.
I fell in love with this book.
Introduction by Shawna Kenney
Kenny explains her process of working on Book Lovers:
“Curating this collection forced me to examine what I think “good writing” means, as well as answer the impossible question: “what is sexy?” I’m delighted with the kaleidoscope I’ve found.”
She walks us through her introduction to erotic literature as she came of age. Her story is both touching and humorous.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to the written word, both for my sex education and my career path. I’m glad for the many times as a young woman I went to bed with the right book instead of the wrong boy. (That said, sometimes “the wrong boy”was fun, too.)”
A to Z by Kristina Wright
A beautiful story about romance found between two women at a library. The relationship begins with flirting… and a recommended reading list starting with “A is for Austen” Zoe introduces Amy to a wealth of literature at their biweekly rendezvous at the Public Library. As the books move Bronte to Christie to Daphne du Maurier, and the rest of the way down the alphabet, their relationship evolves from flirting to fondling – to sex in the library’s bathroom. I found that the ending was especially satisfying in his story.
“Oh, baby, that’s it,” she moaned, her voice soft and urgent. “You must have really liked Sappho.”
Playmates at Play by Izabella St. James
Told from the point of view of a Playmate living within the walls of the infamous Playboy Mansion – She tells us about the frustration that comes from being one of several Girlfriends of Hugh Hefner, which is not quite as glamorous as it seems. The core of the story centers on how she assuages the dissatisfaction of her sexual exploits within the Mansion by burring herself in literary romance.
“I’d end up going to bed with a mind filled with sexual imagery and the keen awareness of unfulfilled desire, sexually uberawakened only to fall asleep sans the postcoital bliss.
The Descent by Cara Bruce
An homage to The Pit and the Pendulum with a BDSM twist, written in flawless prose. A beautifully crafted tale of darkness, fear, and trust. It might have been my favorite of the collection.
“There is something about lying in darkness, your skin alert with expectation, waiting for someone or something to touch you. When you have no sight, no taste, and only silence, your skin pulses from experience, to live in anything except a tomb which turns every inch of you so wretchedly alive.”
Ai, Junior: Sex, Love, and Junot Díaz by Adina Giannelli
A moving tale of heartbreak between young lovers, paralleled by their love of the author Junot Díaz.
“It is not an overstatement to say that the way this man engaged with words renewed my faith in men, and in modern literature.
I wish I could conjure a better description of the writing style of Giannelli’s work – for now I’ll have to settle on etherial; the chemistry between Adina and Emilio was touching and sweet, even as it vibrated with sexual energy.
“The rhythm of our sex was constant, and it changed with our moods or the wind or the weather-sometimes slow and languid, sometimes rough and messy, sometimes funny, never foreign, often complicated. But it was always vast, and deep, and generous-more ocean than earth; it was less the land and more the water.”
A Little Irish Honey by Valentine Bonnaire
Strangers stuck between the pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses find each other in a small village. Each independently searching for the embodiment of the book’s characters in a modern world.
“At only twenty-eight, he’d decided to chuck anything to do with technology and become something of a steampunk luddite”
Twenty Seconds or Longer by Laila Blake
From the fist line of this story I was smiling: “I want to be an exhibit in a zoo on Tralfamadore.” A story about Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five! A story of mourning; the loss of a child to a married couple (so it goes). Told from the husband’s perspective one morning in the midst of their suffering. It hits at the place where many readers hide – the escapism of fiction, but also the oppressive nature of being absorbed into a fictional work which mirrors our own troubled mind.
“The book was on her nightstand, Pete noticed. He stifled a frustrated sigh. It was open, lying pages down on the wooden surface, teasing its spine to crack over and over. Pete hated cracked spines but Aoife did not. Aoife loved them; all her books had cracked spines and dog-ears and coffee stains like so many hickeys on a lover’s skin.”
An Ode to Ass-Lick Park by Assia Fengari
The seductive poetry of adultery. The beginning, the wild middle, and the bitter end of an affair as told through memories and the combined poetry written to one another.
“We are no longer gods; our apple barely tasted, we have been chased from Paradise. Because was started as adultery, even if it felt like planetary sway, like the most natural of all natural things, must end in guilt, because he had finally done it, destroyed himself, because he’s made her pregnant, before we had the chance to run away, to find our cave.”
Bibliolatry in Blue: a Case Study by Meena Delmar
Written in the form of a psychological case study, the story of one woman’s evolution from child book worm to bibliolatric fetishism.
“She had become increasingly fixated, not just with owning books, or being surrounded by them, but with the need to be in perpetual contact with them. To hold them, envelop them, feel their touch against her skin…”
Cash for Books by Trina Calderón
A humorous tale of taste. An older woman drawn to shiny new books; a younger man with a taste for unique first printings. Their taste in literature bleeds into their sexual desires, and the result is a steamy afternoon in the back room of a used book store.
“I like old books. There’s something about a limited edition, the one-of-a-kind book that stays current even years down the line.” “Not me. I like my pages bright and clean. I want to be the first one to crack it open, the first one to close it satisfied or wanting more,” she throws back. She wonders if he’s a virgin.”
Come Immigrate with Me by Trudi Taylor
Former lovers, separated since college, reunite in a tour of a foreign country. The narrator finds nearly everything about the experience dissatisfying and cold, worlds away from the heat and passion of their collegiate affair. This story failed to resonate with me like the rest of the collection – probably due more to my youth than any failure of the author.
Marco by Laurie Stone
Totally lost on this one, I’ll have to take a break and come back to it. I feel like I’ve missed something here.
Open Letters to Famous Writers by Laura Robers
Laura writes a series of letters to various authors who have made an impact on her life – her Letters to Anaïs Nin and Henry Rollins were absolutely brilliant, they had me wondering what I would write and to whom should I be afforded the opportunity.
“You were my first contract come, Anaïs. And you’ll always be the best, even now that I’ve got a stable full of talent to trot out every night. Your words still echo in my brain, with perverse pleasures and portraits of ladies of the night. I still hope that one day you will indulge me, the way you allowed your characters to indulge their lovers in garrets and boudoirs across Paris, but even if you find me vile and debased, we are always entertained on the page. I own a piece of you now, and it fits perfectly on the shelf like any other trophy.”
The philosophy of Hamilton by Chelsey Drysdale
Absolutely magnificent! A story of college romance, philosophy, free will, losing religion in the way only a 90s college student can. I was moved by this piece. It made me nostalgic for my own collegiate career wanderings…
“We talked in whispers like this for five weeks without kissing each other’s lips or ever seeing each other off campus – The ultimate torturous and wondrous foreplay”
“They were the glorious college days of intellectual discussion, late morning cuddling, and scrutinizing meaning in the lyrics off an album jacket.”
Smut by Jay Xuret
A cute memoir recounting one man’s sexual education as a young (Grade School-age) boy. Searching for dirty magazines with stories of graphic sex, eventually gaining the courage to purchase a Playboy, and later finding a book of erotic fiction. I loved the balance of innocence and naughtiness that can only be achieved by being a curious little boy in 1950s America. The narrators frank retelling of his coming of age put me in mind of Ralphie from A Christmas Story, but instead of coveting the Red Ridder BB Gun, he was surreptitiously squirreling away pornography.
“But what a book. The prose was brilliant. Even the torrid pages of Velour had not prepared me for the ferocious intensity of sexual congress as described by a writer of the talent of Pierre Lacroix. In his sure hands the sexually charged congress of two windswept and animally magnetic artists was stunning. I couldn’t believe my fortune. This book was worth its weight in gold. It was, as Greg Palumbo and I for once agreed, true smut.”
Whom by Jeremy Edwards
A love of linguistics is the focus of this laugh-out-loud story. Throughout reading this entire compilation I’ve been highlighting little sections here and there, inserting my favorite passages into the small reviews I’ve been writing for each story… However with “Whom” I’ve nearly highlighted the entire feature, which I believe says more about the quality of Jeremy Edwards’s writing than I ever could. This was simply marvelous!
“I’m fascinated by people who have interesting relationships with their books. After all, anybody can just read a book, right” She laughed. “True. So… have you had any good relationships with books lately?”
The Thrillhammer Orgasmatron by Slash Coleman
I laughed and giggled and snorted at this tale with such frequency that my husband started giving me worried looks. Slash Coleman’s story of an educator attending a Masturbation Party hosted by an Erotica Author. It had a rhythm and prose which evoked a Douglas Adams style in my mind, though the author was not mentioned. It had me hooked from the first line:
“The first time I witnessed the Thrillhammer Orgasmatron in action was at Petal Snow’s Third Annual Masturbate-a-thon. Seeing as I had just taught my own class on masturbation and now considered myself a masturbation instructor, I thought I should go out and see what others in the neighborhood were doing with the medium.”
The Longest Unzipping of My Life by Stephanie Auteri
A woman discovers (through erotic literature) and embraces (in reality) her fetish for exhibitionism – at a sex party, at a friend’s house, in the front seat of her boyfriend’s car. A classic case of finding what turns you on as you turn the pages of a book, then bringing those elements off the page and into your life.
“I certainly never expected I would one day be attending a sex party with my boyfriend. Up until now, the closest I’d gotten to the elicit thrill of possibly getting caught in the act was when we did it in our parents’ homes, in rooms that had no locks. Which, to be honest, was more stressful than thrilling.”
That Sweet Tone by Charlotte Musée Lorenz
Attraction between two musicians culminates in a sexy romp on the scattered pages of classic literature.
“It was a stack of pages that had once been a book. The binding was completely gone, disintegrated, nonexistent. I saw it as a small miracle that I still managed to finish (and reread) it in this state; the pages were always together and in order. I cherished that book not only because I loved what it held in its pages, but because of its brokenness. Because of the miraculous staying power it had. I kept it carefully together with a rubber band, which I gingerly undid every time I wanted to open it. That was exactly how his copy of Frankenstein was: a stack of pages that had once been a book. And he was a stack of crazy that had once been a man.”
Shafted by Landon Dixon
Beat-Speak, car metaphors, and 1950’s colloquialisms. A private dick (pun intended) Conning a Con-Man in the legendary Lavender district of NYC. Using the front of a Gay-Erotica Book Store to gain back money the mark had stolen from his client. Heavily sexual, highly entertaining.
“He gave me the shaft man!”
“We should all be so lucky.”
“Don’t you ever think about anything except taking it up the ass, Reynolds?” I stared out the window of my cubbyhole office at the air shaft that separated the two dilapidated wings of the crumbling building. “Yes. Sometimes I think about giving it up the ass.” I swung around in my squeaky swivel. “When my mouth isn’t full that is.”
Ana Maria by Michelle Cruz Gonales
Ana Maria’s pregnancy-hormone-fueled sexual daydreams about her college professor.
“Arturo, tapping at the page of his copy of Lolita, a well-worn, dog-eared paperback copy, brought her back to the room, leaving her wanton. They were discussing rhythm and sound in prose. There was certainly a lot of rhythm in that particular passage, like hands, and arms, and legs and bodies all over one another, like the kind of sex she had before she got pregnant.
Anaïs by Dani Bauter
The author inserts herself into a fictional affair with Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. A tale of knowing what’s missing; of not knowing you crave something until you’ve lost it. About adultery, muses, and artists, and using someone to heal your wounds while simultaneously being used by another. Twisted. Depressing. Cold.
“Her love was like a hickey on my heart. Even now, as I think about the time I have spent with her, I wince in a simultaneous pain and pleasure, blood coursing through my veins. Our love was painful, dangerous, but thrilling. She almost destroyed me. But she’s fading now – fading into just a bruise, hopefully not a scar. I almost feel like I don’t have to cover her up anymore.”
Inked by L.C. Spoering
After signing an autograph on the arm of a young fan, an aging author becomes a voyeur. Shaun Biltmore, an author at an event held in his honor stumbles across his autographed young fan and her lover in an empty room of the hotel banquet hall. Biltmore watches their trust silently from just outside the door. A particularly satisfying and sly ending to this story.
“…as she turned both of their bodies away, he caught a glimpse of this own signature, faint and in reverse, over a white thigh. Best of all luck.”
The Wolf by Amy Halloran
A dream-like tale of spells and stories – a remaining of Little Red Riding Hood, where stories have the power to transform the wolf into man.
“You bring out the beast in me,” guys say at school in the hallway. But wolves become human when they want and have. Or at least my dear, sweet Wolf does. Not for everyone, but just for me, when I tell him stories. This is how it goes. First the snout recedes, all the better to kiss me. Then his pointy ears change to shells that are perfect for my tongue.”
Final Thoughts on Book Lovers:
This is the type of Anthology so flawlessly written as to demand second and third readings.
“You see, I like to try anything once, and I like to try things twice especially when I have an unusually anxiety-filled experience the first time. I like to push on the bruise.”
– From The Thrillhammer Orgasmatron written by Slash Coleman