Wow, what a month this has been for short story collections – first I had my chance to get my hands on Take Me There (a 5 star read of transgender erotica), and now I’ve got Red Velvet and Absinthe (a 5 star read of gothic erotica). The fact that they're both courtesy of Cleis Press can't be a coincidence!
If I had to pick one word to define this collection, it would definitely be atmosphere. You can feel the condensation upon the cold, stone walls; you can smell the sulphur scent of recently snuffed candles in the air; and you can taste the coppery tang of blood upon the tip of your tongue. These are not just stories with a gothic touch, these are stories written in the true gothic tradition.
It’s hard to choose from a collection like this, but my favourites included:
Snowlight Moonlight by Rose de Fer – this read like an old-school, 19th century gothic tale . . . just a lot sexier (and with a lovely touch of bondage)!
Cover Him with Darkness by Janine Ashbless – a wonderful story of family pacts, inherited responsibilities, and the erotic allure of a fallen angel who wants only be to be loved . . . and set free
The Blood Moon by Mitzi Szereto – one of my top 3 favourites in the collection, the kind of story that begs for more.
Dolly by Charlotte Stein – creepy and sexy at the same time, I thought I knew where it was going, and then she wowed me with a twist that is just perfect
La Belle Mort by Zander Vyne – a passionate and (at times) exhausting tale of witchcraft erotica, and one that made me squeal with delight at the twist ending
Milady's Bath by Giselle Renarde – what can I said, the lovely Ms Renarde can do no wrong by me . . . and her story of a wronged woman taking comfort in the arms of her her maidservant made me sigh with pleasure. Another of my top three.
The Queen by Tahira Iqbal – perhaps the most intensely sexual of all the reads (for me, at least) and the proud piece of pleasure to round out my top 3.
I started out by saying that, if I had to pick one word to define this collection, it would be atmosphere. That’s true, but if I could pick a second, it would be consistency. This is a wonderfully written collection of stories, every one of which captures the spirit of the gothic, and every one of which captures your imagination. There were a few stories where the subject matter didn’t quite enthral me, but the writing still kept me reading.
Perhaps most appreciatively, this is a collection of gothic stories that are also erotic – not just an erotica collection with gothic elements tossed in. Altogether lovely, haunting, and deliciously decadent, you’ll be snuffing out the candles long before you’re done, if only to hide your own gothic touch under the cover of darkness!