Seductress is one of several books edited by DL King that I wish I’d written for, so I’m happy to join some of the writers in the book and contribute to the blog tour for her anthology.
I wrote a full-fledged review when the book first came out, and said pretty much all I have to say, so here it is:
When we pick up a book with a title like Seductress: Erotic Tales of Immortal Desire, edited by DL King for Cleis Press, we have certain expectations. When the cover blurb confirms that yes, this is succubus erotica, our expectations get ramped up as high as the libido of the traditional sorcerer summoning a sex demon. “Sexy, immortal women with the power to steal what they need from human beings through seduction,” the editor promises in her introduction. At this point, the reader’s needs had better be met, as well.
Seductress does not disappoint. In some ways we get a better deal than the sorcerer, since we can share the pleasures of both the human and the succubus, and count on surviving. (My one quibble about the book as a whole is that there’s a bit too much surviving going on. Still, it’s a tricky business to draw a reader deeply into the persona of a character, as most of these stories do, and then polish him or her off abruptly at the end, so maybe it’s just as well.)
DL wisely starts off with two relatively traditional pieces. The first, “Harvest” by Aurelia T. Evans, has just the right tone and atmosphere, and a most satisfying succubus (with an especially talented tail.) “’I will hurt you. But in the end...’ That predatory smile again, like the glint of a sharpened blade. ‘It will be more pleasure than you have known or will know again, made more potent by the fact it cannot kill you.’” Yes, that’s exactly where we wanted to go when we opened the book.
The second story, “A Surprising Summons” by Kaysee Renee Robichaud, has just as much of a traditional feel even though the seductress quickly adapts herself to the modern world of her summoner, over three encounters separated by a good many years. The sex is just as intense as in the first piece, but more nuanced, and so are the characters. The ending is poignant, moving, and well-earned by what has come before. A nice variation on the ancient theme.
I’m a big fan of variations. However clear my expectations may be, there comes a point when enough of them have been met that what I want most is to see wildly different treatments of the theme, and the parts that stick longest in my memory are the ones that startled me.
What catches my attention could be a macabre, disturbing, yet lovely description of a setting, as when Kannan Feng says in “Before a Fall,” “Last year, I attended a moon-viewing party over the River Nekane. A hundred skin lanterns floated in the water, throwing back ruddy, sullen shadows.” The story that follows is beautifully written and intensely erotic, though I did find myself wishing for more details of this particular world of demons.
Or the hook for me could be an imaginative set piece, like the submissive man cowering on the step below his mistress in a lavishly decorated department store as he rides with “The Girl on the Egyptian Escalator” by NJ Streitberger. This one was also quite satisfying in that the man was so easy to dislike.
All the stories here are good, each in its own distinctive way, and all deliver abundantly when it comes to eroticism. Since women are always in charge, and their needs are paramount, reading too many stories in a row too quickly may give an impression of repetition when it comes to the elements of sex, but that’s pretty much inevitable. The men certainly get everything they can handle, and then some.
The stories that really blow my mind (and everything else) are the ones combining well-crafted writing with startling originality. Three in particular stand out in this respect.
Evan Mora’s legendary lovers in “Star-Crossed” achieve an immortal life together, but at a price. Romeo has an accidental encounter with a vampire, and Juliet, in order to stay with him, makes a deal with the devil. But the vampire Romeo has no life force to feed on, and Juliet the succubus has no real blood in her veins. “And that’s us in a nutshell: Romeo and Juliet, the star- crossed lovers, a pair of immortals who can’t give each other the very thing necessary for their continued existence. The Devil, it seems, it not without a sense of irony.” That, of course, is only the beginning; the pair work out their system through several centuries, and eventually Juliet shares an episode when they go clubbing to hunt down a meal satisfying to both of them. A clever concept, developed with style and passion.
Sasha Bukova delivers a memorable character in “Zach’s Last Ride,” a stunt-rider whose feats of speed and danger feed his lust for more than just oaring through the air on his motorcycle can satisfy—until he meets the mysterious girl on a bike that’s “all big engine and wide tires with high, wide handlebars that resembled devil’s horns.” Both of these characters are larger (and darker) than life, but Bukova somehow makes them touch us deeply.
The final piece is Kate Dominic’s “Soaring.” Kate takes originality to unexpected heights, with a seductress who passes for a photojournalist embedded with American troops in Afghanistan. This succubus feeds on the sex-gorged dreams of soldiers far from their homes and loved ones, while bonding with them on very human terms, until a final twist raises the transfer of erotic essence to a whole new plane. Brilliantly conceived, beautifully realized.
So, yes, in case there’s any doubt, I liked Seductress very much, and quite a bit of it I loved. The fact that I’m a writer and editor myself is bound to affect my opinions, so take that into account. That said, I do think that anyone who is intrigued by the notion of succubus erotica will have their needs and highest expectations met here—and then some.