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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Randy Reading #3: Enchanted: Erotic Fairy Tales

After last week's short story double-up, I thought it was time to look at something of a gateway-book to the more lengthy novels.  This one I picked up a couple of years ago, back when I was still getting to grips with erotic literature myself, and I found it much more fulfilling than some of the shorter Black Lace collections, as well as being slightly more in tune with my own draw to the paranormal-slash-supernatural style of fiction.  Black Lace's Enchanted: Erotic Fairy Tales is a trilogy of not-so-short stories focusing on the concept of adult fairy tales.  Now, as I mentioned in Randy Reading #1, I find Black Lace stories to be a little too eager to find the happy ending and have every couple ride into the sunset (take that how you wish!).  That failing is probably exactly why I find these stories to work so well: that fairy tale mentality is exactly what's needed in a genuine fairy tale.

Be Careful What You Wish For.
Three writers from the best of Black Lace 
show there's nothing 
childish about fairy tales.

The three pieces, spanning 272 pages in all, are each long enough to explore their own tale, but not so long as to forbid getting distracted lest you lose the thread of the narrative.  There was overall enough plot and character development to prevent me getting testy about lazy writing as I'm prone to with the shorter BL stories, whilst still keeping things brief.

"Bear Skin", by Janine Ashbless
Hazel is whisked away from her tedious job and humdrum life by the mysterious Arailt, to be his lover.  The only problem is that there is more to Arailt than meets the eye - much more.

I was surprised at the depth in this story: there's more literary involvement in its 72 pages than I've seen in some complete books! The modern-day Orpheus and Eurydice have to comply with the very simple rules the Persephone-esque Queen of Shadows has set up in order to prove their love and trust and win the hero's freedom. Unfortunately, like their Greek counterparts, the urge to see a lover's face at the last minute dooms them. Luckily for Hazel, she, unlike Orpheus, is offered another chance to rescue her love. The only price is her body, and her pride. By debasing herself and suffering punishment, humiliation,  and the various sexual pleasures of the Fates, she can find a route through the lands of magic to once again see the face that cost her love his freedom.

The contrast between the fairy-tale eroticism of the couple locked away and in love, and the use and abuse of Hazel as she seeks to satisfy the lusts of the three Norse Fates and of the four Winds, means there is something for every taste. The kinkier events don't last long, and are never that extreme, so if you have a particular aversion to descriptions of watersports, anal sex, or lesbian pleasures, it won't be long enough to ruin your thrill.

It's actually funny, this was my first encounter with any kind of piss-play, and was surprised by how it was still hot, despite it not being my "thing".  Since then I've had the chance to try it out (albeit briefly), and now that I'm keen to repeat my own experiences, the scene from this story is the one that keeps popping up in my wandering mind.

"The Three Riddles", by Olivia Knight
The elves, they say, know the secrets of events - but the queen has no time for superstitions.  As her kingdom crumbles, she longs for her lost love.  But can she risk her country on a whim?

The new Queen must choose between her lover – gentle and chivalrous, but not so much so that he doesn't enjoy cumming on his love's naked body – and a political alliance in dangerous times. Her pride steers her away from the advise of the fae creatures, and so away from the arms of her love. Their violent and hate-fuelled marital acts cannot continue indefinitely, and of course true love can conquer any dark spell, but she must rely on the elves and their riddles, knowing that they are displeased with her, and knowing that her lover may already be lost.

I enjoyed the story, but it wasn't very erotic: more a simple fairytale romance with the odd sex scene thrown in. Something better suited to cuddling up in front of the fire than settling in for an 'early night'.

"The People in the Garden", by Leonie Martel
Strange things are happening in the grounds of Count and Countess Malinovsky's Gothic manor house.  Local people tell of fairies, goblins and unnameable creatures, and there are stories about a ghostly girl with an uncanny resemblance to the decadent couple's beautiful servant Katia.

The longest of the three tales at 109 pages, this is also the most complex. An orphaned society girl is ripped from her life of luxury and sold as, supposedly, a maid to a Countess in a remote and backward country estate by her duplicitous uncle. Before she can bemoan her fate and resign herself to serving life, however, she discovers that she is to be used in her new Mistress' sex games. Trained to punish and demean the Count, and even the pious garden boy, she finds herself drawn to a life wielding a whip. But rather than things being as simple as a sexual awakening, she must battle with her growing tender love for the Count, as well as the secret witchcraft that threatens to chain her to a dark god as his consort.

With the many layers of secrets and plotting, I think this would have been better as a stand-alone story, with more time given to developing the relationship between the Count and young Katia, as well as exploring the motivations of the Countess, rather than simply pegging her as a 'mad witch' and not delving further into her accomplices. There were also other characters that could have played a bigger role, such as Peter the gardener boy and Katia's Uncle Istvan. It would also have been better to discover more of Katia's transformation into a domina, and how she dealt with the conflict between her lust and love, and her eagerness to serve and be served with humiliation and debauchery while remaining chaste. Despite feeling rushed at times, it was a very enjoyable read.

The combination of these three tales is perfect, as the book contains something for any mood: light romance, dark debauchery, or love and lust in the hands of the Fates. Even the supernatural element switches between modernised classic myths, elves and enchantments, and good old-fashioned demonic magic. I'd especially recommend this to someone still wary of the whole 'supernatural sex' genre, as the magical aspect is simply a part of the background, setting the scene for realistic plots and believable characters.
Variety that compliments each other;
Solid, fully-rounded characters;
Plot lines that get explored in their entirety, and are believable despite the surreal settings;
Ideal lengths, leaving space to develop a rich and complex story, without making it too involved to put down if you're feeling too hot to continue.
One tale was too tame for me;
Another needed to be longer and more exploratory.

Very interesting trio of stories.  I've actually re-read all of them at various points, and I love the juxtaposition of the modern with the fantastical, each story having such a different take on the simple concept of the erotic fairy tale.  I was especially impressed by "Bare Skin", as it clearly referenced many Greek and Norse myths and fables, without overtly grandstanding. However, I was a little let down by the softness of "The Three Riddles", and the threads of potential left unattended in "The People in the Garden", which could perhaps have been developed into a novella in its own right.  In every sense that matters, however, it was exceptionally enjoyable, both from a literary perspective and from a word-porn one.


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