Publisher: Cleis Press
Release Date: December 11, 2018
Received From: Review copy from one of the authors
Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 will prove to be yet another addition to this body-tingling series—the gold standard for erotic lesbian fiction. This year it journeys into the world of lesbian sex with unique and sometimes kinky stories that push lesbian lust and desire to new heights of pleasure. Edited by award-winning editor Sacchi Green, this latest edition is sensual, inventive, and utterly breathtaking.
GENDER: cisgender, transgender
SEXUALITY: lesbian, queer
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: homoromantic, queer
PAIRING: F/F, F/F/F, polyamory
TROPES: mile high club, professor x (former) student, rebound romance, age gap, date auction, underground culture, vacation romance, friends to lovers, reunited exes
TAGS: adult, contemporary, erotica, romance, erotic romance, queer romance, queer characters, BDSM/kink, existing relationship, historical, disabled characters (fibromyalgia, uses a cane), fat characters, autistic characters, Moroccan character, Berber character, Latina character, Black character, POC characters, sex worker character
WARNINGS: sexual content, abortion mention, cancer mention, child abuse mention, cheating mention, ableism, drugs, chronic pain, anti-queerness, religion (Christianity), mental illness (panic attack, anxiety, PTSD), workplace discrimination, slurs, gendered slurs, alcohol, anti-sex work, dubious consent, public play, cultural appropriation, misogyny, bullying mention, addiction, anti-bi/anti-pan language, sexual assault mention, racism
Overall, I enjoyed this collection of stories.
While most of them were a solid 3 stars–enjoyable but nothing that wowed me overmuch–there were three stories that I especially loved! The first is Xan West’s TRYING SUBMISSION, a lovely piece of their larger work, SHOCKING VIOLET, that is hopefully releasing sometime in 2019. Every little bit of this novel I see makes me crave it more, and this short piece was no exception. In a mere 15 pages, I completely fell for Liliana and he happy appreciation of the people in her life and her desire to try new things–hence the title. The tentative nervousness she felt towards actually asking Roz for help was like something you could actually feel in the air and wanted to soothe for her, and the relief she feels at being understood and having her needs considered and embraced is palpable, as if a cool breeze is flowing over heated skin, releasing the tension. And the anticipated submission scene is so deliciously and vividly painted so as to make one feel like they’re in the room with Roz and Liliana. Just everything about it was wonderful and a joy to read.
Second was the story RAINBOW’S END by Emily L. Byrne–a short about a queer girl venturing to a different part of town to attend a reading at a queer bookstore. In just a few pages, Byrne creates a wonderful feeling of home and belonging in the medley of characters she’s created. And the characters are exciting and interesting enough to make one wish that this was part of a longer story, where we get to read about the romance between the two main characters, as well as get to learn more about the found family.
Finally, there’s STILL MARCHING by Victoria Janssen, which is the story of two older ladies reunited at a March 25 years after the first March they met at. I loved these two old ladies and how sweetly happy they were to find each other again, and how eager they were to start something new and fresh at this stage of their lives, opening themselves to each other with no barriers.
But, just as there were a few stories I particularly enjoyed, there were a few that were upsetting and difficult to like. The first was THE AUCTION by RG Emanuelle. I’m not personally a big fan of “date auctions” to begin with, but that wasn’t actually the issue that I had with this story. The first aspect that was bothersome was that it is incredibly anti-sex work. There are multiple comments that are derogatory towards sex work, and sex workers, and they were completely unnecessary from multiple standpoints. They added nothing to the story except to perpetuate hatred for an already mistreated group. Secondly, there was some pretty dubious consent. The “love interest” in this story agrees to let a third woman watch her and the main character have sex, without consulting the main character until they’re already naked and in the midst of having sex, and then the love interest lays on a guilt trip to get the main character to agree. She does ultimately consent, but it’s pretty questionable and left me with an icky feeling. Similarly, Nanisi Barrett D’Arnuk’s OLIVER: TWISTED contained dubious consent. Again, the “love interest” didn’t consult the main character before starting to tie her to the bed, and then forcibly continues when the main character says no until she finally just gives in. And RULES by Lea Daley made me feel uncomfortable, because the reunited exes get back together in the midst of allegations of sexual abuse being made against one of them. I don’t really feel like the alleged rape of a preschooler was strictly necessary–Daley could’ve easily inserted a different crisis to bring the two back together.
Also, there’s a noticeable lack of diverse representation throughout this collection. Out of 17 stories, only 5 feature marginalizations other than being a lesbian:
- RAINBOW’S END by Emily L. Byrne — nonbinary secondary character
- FUCK ME LIKE A CANADIAN by Raven Sky — Moroccan/Berber love interest
- TRYING SUBMISSION by Xan West — fat, trans, queer, autistic, disabled (fibromyalgia and uses a cane), Latina main character and fat, queer, Black love interest
- STILL MARCHING by Victoria Janssen — Black love interest
- SWEET OF MY HEART by Anna Watson — sex worker main character
The fact that there’s such a lack of diversity overall was disappointing. And while it wasn’t all that surprising, unfortunately, I did wish that there were more marginalized identities represented, rather that essentially selecting one with a lot of diversity and then sprinkling a couple other ones amongst of sea of stories about cis, white, abled characters.