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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Randy Reading #1: Black Lace Quickies 6

"Inaugurated in July 1993, Black Lace has emerged as the leading imprint 
of erotic fiction for women, selling over four million books worldwide. 
It has without question been an enormous success, 
 and the success looks set to continue. 
In publishing a series of attractive, strongly branded books aimed at women, 
we have created a new genre."

Whether or not you agree with how big an impact Black Lace have had on the erotic fiction market, they certainly are a household name (depending on your household, clearly!).  Even though they've taken a back seat in the past year, with their publishing house, Virgin Books, making the decision to focus more on their non-fiction texts, the vast BL catalog means most, if not all, erotic literature stockists will still carry a decent selection.

The main selling point of Black Lace books is that they're 100% written by women, for women.  This probably links closely into why, in all the books I've read, the stories have to resolve with some form of fairytale ending.  I know that many women can write without resorting to such clichés, but I get the impression that Black Lace specifically seek those whose writing leans more towards the fluffy hetero-normative fantasy. Now, personally, while I can handle a happy ending with the best of them, I rail against one being shoehorned in against all logic simply to satisfy some publication guidelines.  Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed many BL books, and some I actually see as having some literary value.  But, overall, I've seen too many of their stories as designed purely for someone who is unsure as to what they like, and wants a story that cares more about delivering an evocative, yet mild-mannered, sex scene than about finding the next The Canterbury Tales.

The book I've chosen to be the first in this series of reviews is exactly that: it is lightweight and accessible, but relatively insubstantial.  As someone who is confident of what she does and does not enjoy in a piece of porny prose, and is a little of a literary snob, it didn't do all that much for me, but I can see that I am clearly not it's target audience, and since I know many people who might be out there in internet-land browsing around fit perfectly into that category - new to erotic literature, not willing to spend a lot on something they may not like - I thought it would be a good jumping-off point.  So, let us jump off and have a peek at Black Lace Quickies 6.

Cheap thrills: only £3.99 at Lovehoney

"Indulgent, sensual, taboo, outrageous and always, always erotic, 
Black Lace short stories are the best in modern sexy fiction.  
Fun, irreverent and deliciously decadent, this arousing little anthology 
of our erotica is a showcase of the diversity and imagination 
of modern women's erotic desires.  
So pick me up and dip into the most entertaining 
erotic fiction around."

At only six stories short, this is a lot slimmer than most erotic short stories collections, but then it is almost half the price of the average short story collection or novel (and half the weight!).  This also means they didn't bother with a contents page, which does make my form-stickler nerve twitch, but 124 pages total isn't exactly all that much to flick through.

So, with a similar lack of frills, it's time to dive into the stories themselves:

  • "Learning Procedures" by Hannah Brophy.
  • "Rocky Mountain Rendezvous" by Kimberly Dean. 
  • "Are We There Yet?" by Portia Da Costa.
  • "Coffee Break" by Alison Tyler. 
  • "Private Performance" by Mae Nixon.
  • "Beautiful Things" by Cal Jago. 

"Learning Procedures"
Even office temps can be addictive...
Themes: Fem-Dom, Pegging, Anal, Exhibitionism/Voyeurism.

Kevin's a high-power lawyer, and a bell-end of the highest order.  Having driven several secretaries from his office, he gets stuck with a sexy punk, who keeps him fighting for control with her exhibitionism and competence, until he finally succumbs to his urge and follows her home, only to be surprised by just how prepared from him she is!

To be honest, I found most of the preamble to be a little grating, as the main character, Keven, was a little bit too much of a caricature to draw me into the story; I found myself fighting the urge to just skim past the narration and get to the juicy parts.  I did have a bit of an internal shudder when Kevin decided to use lip balm as anal lube.  However, the description of the scenes where Miss Carlson is teasing and tempting her boss, as well as both sex scenes, are deliciously detailed.  Overall, I think it works well, just the initial portrayal of Kevin as being a bit of an egocentric douchecanoe could use toning down, as after a certain point it does feel a bit like "yes, we get it!", and is wasting pages that could be dedicated to more salacious scenes.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

"Rocky Mountain Rendezvous"
Take a rendezvous in the Rocky Mountains...
Themes: Infidelity, Exhibitionism/Outdoor sex.
Jenna's hot and horny waiting for her lover, Shane, to join her in a secluded mountain cabin.  Given that the "twist is glaringly obvious from the third page - if not earlier! - I won't dance around the spoilers, and state outright that who shows up is in fact Shane's twin brother, Shawn.

Much like "Learning Procedures", the sex scenes and descriptions are what save some rather mediocre story-telling.  This, however, is much tamer than the BDSM-tinged first story, as it focuses purely on two people having steamy-yet-vanilla sex.  Despite my personal leanings towards the more kinky kind of tale, I actually preferred this, as the writer clearly played more to her strengths, focusing so continuously on the erotic aspects that the wishy-washy plot is secondary and inconsequential.
Rating: ★★★☆☆

"Are We There Yet?"
Sometimes the best journeys are taken blindfold...
Themes: Domination/Submission, Exhibitionism, Outdoor masturbation, Watersports, Discipline
Mr. Stone and Ms. Lewis enjoy their D/s relationship with a road-trip, her bound, blind, and butt-plugged, thinking back on other scenes they'd played before and guessing at what she'd discover when the car pulls to a stop.  They make several stops, each featuring a different kinky game: masturbating by the road, being made to cum while pissing on the ground, and punishment with a heavy leather belt.

This is definitely more my cup of tea.  It features some of the more "taboo" desires, but does so within a context where they're perfectly normal.  The characters are both believable, lovers who play their roles and with whom any hyperbole is intentional on their part to make sure it all remains a game.  It's simple, it's fun, and it's believable, a glimpse into what could be the lives of a real life mild D/s couple.
Rating: ★★★★☆

"Coffee Break"
Coffee breaks often have ulterior motives...
Themes: Infidelity, Workplace sex.
Danielle spices up her days as the secretary to a stereotype of a romance novelist (I really want to believe the irony is intentional!) by first fantasising about, and then sneaking off with the coffee delivery boy, Declan, unbeknownst to either her jaded boss or her boyfriend.

I swing back and forth on this one.  On one hand, having characters who seem to be lifted whole from an episode of "Dallas" makes it hard to get any realistic grasp on the story.  On the other, the writer does seem to realise this, and the whole thing seems slightly tongue-in-cheek.  Either way, it's light and simple and pokes some sly fun at the stereotypes too many erotic stories cling to.  The sex scenes are good, well described and arousing, but nothing exceptional.  I think as a story, it's witty and entertaining, but it's not quite as "porny" as I'd expect.
Rating: ★★★☆☆

"Private Performance"
Beautiful hands can play a girl to her peak...
Themes: ---
Peter Griffin (no, really) the pianist and Tess the music-lover, after a chance encounter, find they have a connection, sharing an evening of music, massage, and sensual sex.

There's not really all that much to say about this one.  It's a straightforward story, with almost all of it focused on a single scene of foreplay and sex.  It's well-written, descriptive, and doesn't hurry.  There's nothing exceptional - it's sensual and simple and exactly how two new lovers would behave - but that leaves the plot clutter-free enough to focus on making sure the details tell the story.  Enjoyable, and easy to relate to, but unfortunately a little forgettable.
Rating: ★★★☆☆

"Beautiful Things"
Some thrills can only be stolen...
Themes: Theft & Deception.
Our nameless heroine isn't any mere klepto, she genuinely fetishises the act of stealing.  Along with her partner in crime and in sex, Alex, she aquires the latest delight her magpie eye has landed on, before they both use it to fuck out the rush.

A rather unusual plot, and the character is actually believable, albeit slightly absurd.  As with "Learning Procedures", the set-up goes beyond what's needed, as over half the story is dedicated to explaining just how much she loves stealing.  Sure, she does reference how she gets off on stealing, but it's not directly sexy, and once it's established that she has a fetish for stealing things, there's nothing more to be gained from belabouring the point.  The characters and sex scenes are well-written and enjoyable, but the story as a whole drags that down a little, more's the pity.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Back cover

For the most part, I never felt like I could live the story, or wished that I could be a part of it. I couldn't empathise with most of the characters, and I was always slightly disappointed when they seemed to get everything they desired without any of the trials real people go through. And there was always a part of me playing the literary critic, cringing at the clichés and the carelessly created characters, refusing to let me fully enjoy the narrative.

That said, I was mildly impressed by the sex scenes. They were all moderately graphic, depicting the scene perfectly, but without being vulgar and coarse (or talking about "her quivering nether lips" and "his hungry member" and such flowery shallowness). There was nothing that I'd mark to flick back to at another time, but I did find myself feeling a little aroused, and certainly enjoyed reading them.

It's trash. It's fun, and easy to read, and good for someone who might not want a heavy punch-packer of a story, but it's not exactly high literature. For me, it served the purpose I intended it for: to distract me in the bath or settling into bed. But I wouldn't expect it to entertain me in the same way as some of the other short story collections I've enjoyed have. 
Easy to pick up;
Very short and to the point;
Cheap as chips;
Accessible and inoffensive;
Perfect for someone new to erotic fiction.
A little bland for my tastes;
Not exactly high literature;
Too short to get any real depth, even by short story standards.

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