Tag Archives: Cleis Press

Book Review: Pledges: Gay Erotic Stories

Pledges: Gay Erotic Stories

Edited by Shane Allison

Wrestling at the frat house, toga parties, plenty of pledge paddlings, and initiations of the sexy kind will have every man on campus lined up to join the fraternity of beautiful men who know how to have fun, especially with each other! Shane Allison, recipient of the Gaybie Award for his fine fiction in College Boys returns to the campus for another set of page-turning, arousing adventures featuring hunky undergrads getting it on. Ryan Field shows us that pledge sex is the best sex in “It’s Not Hazing, It’s Brotherhood.” Hot, sweaty sex ensues between a pledge and his handsome professor in Heidi Champa’s “Caught Red Handed.” There’s some major heat to the seat action going on in Logan Zachary’s “Spank You, Sir, Could I Have Another?” The lines of gay and straight get blurred in Pepper Espinoza’s, “On Restriction.” Barry Lowe has got something for the most loyal of butt connoisseur in “Spin the Bottom.” Two young pledges are put through a series of seedy challenges in Eric Del Carlo’s “Pecking Order.” Gregory Norris amazes with “Heaven Week.” Michael Bracken proves that you have to “give” some head to get ahead in “What a Rush.”

I confess.  I bought this book because of the cover.  *drool*

The stories inside were good, too.

Like any anthology, there were some strong entries, some weaker entries, and a lot of entries that fell in between.  A gay erotica anthology from Cleis Press is pretty much always a guaranteed good time.

The stories in this collection were… *cough* …stimulating.

I felt that the stories weren’t as cohesive as Cleis anthologies usually are.  These anthologies are usually around a theme — body type, kink, or setting — and this one is around college fraternities.  But, oddly, given the rather specific context, there seemed to be a lot of differences among the stories and, while they were all great individually, they didn’t seem to make as cohesive a whole as they usually do.

That, however, isn’t really a criticism, it’s just an observation.  And it really doesn’t detract from this book.  Like I said, it was “stimulating.”



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Book Review: Steam Bath

Steam Bath

Edited by Shane Allison

Good Clean Fun

Steamy encounters in the bathhouse have been the stuff of erotic legend for centuries—just ask Spartacus! Shane Allison busts open the sauna door in Steam Bath, a rollicking romp of pretty boys and dashing daddies out to cruise. From fresh-faced twinks to silver foxes and beautiful bears, Shane delivers sensational stories of sweaty, muscled men eager to shed their clothes. A towel-snapping good read, Steam Bath is filled with sizzling porn bodies, sexy boys next door, and tantalizing tricks that fully capture the erotic dynamics between men. A gorgeous, tattooed bad boy asks to be taught a hard lesson in Eric Del Carlo’s “Steam Punk.” A twink finds true love for one night at the baths, who blows his mind and more in Rafaelito V. Sy’s “Raf’s Journey.” Things get hot and heavy when two college professors and a horny student stumble upon a Belgian bathhouse in Roscoe Hudson’s “The Chaperones.” And who knew that sex between two randy strangers could be so hot in “Across the Bay,” by T. R. Verten? Gaybie award-winning editor Shane Allison is a rising gay erotica star who proves he is here to stay with Steam Bath.

Steam Bath was a fun and sweaty read.  This collection of stories revolves around saunas / steam rooms, whether they be in a bathhouse, a gym, or, as in one story, ancient Rome.  The setting is something out of porn (and, for some, real life), of often-anonymous sex in semi-public places.  The heat and sweat get you going and the sexy fun unfolds from there.

The collection of stories Allison pulls together is particularly strong.  Like any anthology, there is a mix of styles and abilities on display — but in Steam Bath, even the weakest story is still strong.  Some stories, like Incubus Steams, were interesting, but not quite to my personal taste… I’m still trying to figure out the ending on that one.  Others, such as The Chaperones, mentioned in the cover blurb above were quite hot.  A particular favourite is The Gay Dude, though the comical use of the word “dude” is overdone partway through — past that word, though, is a quick-flowing story that sees two supposedly-straight men accidentally stumble into a bathhouse.

I find the variety of settings to be interesting.  About half-ish of the stories take place in bathhouses and while they seem to have similarities, such as a maze of corridors leading to steam rooms, there’s quite a variety of other rooms for the reader to explore.  Some have impressive (and multiple) showers, pools, floors.  One had a room full of continual rain with giant video screens shifting between rainforest scenes, caves, and other wet places.  So… some of these settings seemed realistic and others a little on the fantastic side.

There was also a variety of reasons for men to go to the bathhouse or steamroom, or to engage in often-anonymous sex.  I found that refreshing.  Rather than saying it’s always the closeted guys or everyone’s just so non-stop horny, the variety of authors here have provided a variety of motivations.

The tag line on the front cover for Steam Bath is “Sweaty Gay Erotica.”  With Shane Allison as the editor, and the strength of the writers present, Steam Bath definitely lives up to its promise.

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Book Review: The Hardest Thing

The Hardest Thing

James Lear

Once a major in the US Marines, Dan Stagg fell foul of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and is now struggling to make sense of civilian life.  In his late 30s, tall and muscular, Dan works as a bouncer at an East Village nightclub.  When he’s offered a fortune to protect the young male secretary of a powerful real estate developer, Dan takes off on a road trip with a hot blond companion who makes it clear that “protection” doesn’t stop at the bedroom door.  But Dan soon realizes he’s being used as a shield for a much more sinister operation and has to choose between easy money and the ideals that he once fought for.

Holy crap was this book hot.

Author James Lear combines a great mystery with some of the hottest erotic fiction I’ve ever read.  Dan Stagg is a very likeable narrator with a complex backstory.  Typically, I’m not fond of first-person narrative, but Dan is one of the few examples of first-person that I truly enjoy.

Dan was in love, once, and then his whole world ended.  His lover died and Dan got kicked out of the military for being gay.  Now, he struggles to make ends meet.  Throughout The Hardest Thing, Dan grows, he heals from his past, he accepts what’s been done, and he risks his heart with Stirling (the young male secretary from the cover blurb).  We get some nice backstory, appropriately placed and meaningfully written, of Dan’s history with Will, his lover from the military… it makes the developments in this book all the more meaningful.

Stirling is an interesting character, too.  When we first meet him, he is very annoying.  He’s, like, the stereotypical New York gay man, but when the shit hits the fan and that facade drops, we get some insights into who Stirling really is.  And, you know what?  He’s quite likeable.

Then there’s the whole problem of people wanting to kill them.  That kind of makes falling in love difficult.

And holy hell is the sex in this book hot.  The sex between Dan and Stirling, which happens throughout the first half, is very hot and enjoyable.  But then in the second half, it almost turns porn-ish (but very high quality porn-ish), what with all the random blowjobs, truck stop bathroom aggressive hookups, and gym showers/sauna sex.  I made the mistake of reading a chapter, the one with the aggressive group sex in a dirty truck stop bathroom, while on my break at work.  Thankfully no one noticed my *cough* physiological reactions *cough* to the chapter.

This is one of those rare books where I have no negative comments, only positive.  I see the cover says “A Dan Stagg Mystery” — I really hope that implies there are more books to come.  If there are, I’m definitely reading them.  Just not at work.


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Book Review: Best Gay Erotica 2013

Best Gay Erotica 2013

Edited by Richard Labonte

Best Gay Erotica 2013 adds another jewel in the crown to what novelist Paul Russell calls an “invaluable series.”  A straight-acting Italian Stallion has a badly-kept secret in Davem Verne’s “The Pasta Closet.”  Douglas A. Martin’s “Other Residences, Other Neighbourhoods” follows a young newcomer from Brooklyn to Chelsea as he chases boys and something like love.  A physics major gets the hazing of a lifetime (and comes back for more) at the frat house in Geoffrey Knight’s “Fight Club.”  From gay superheroes to not-so-innocent farm hands, burly bears and fuzzy cubs, Best Gay Erotica 2013 makes a nice and slow one-handed read.

I’ve been a fan of Richard Labonte’s erotica anthologies since I first picked one up about a year ago.  There’s always an intriguing mix of stories set in varying locales and with an assortment of character types.  Labonte pieces together anthologies that have something for every reader.

This was no exception.  While there are stories that I did not care for, the overall quality was consistently high.  Among my favourites are “Fight Cub,” mentioned in the back cover blurb above — it reads like a pornographic fantasy — a shy twink has hot jocks fighting over him, with the hottest of the hot fighting the hardest.  “Fight Cub” is a smooth and fun read — highly sexual and erotic, but also humorous, especially since the twink helps the jock in the fight by spouting off physics laws.

Another excellent entry was “Night Visit” by Barry Alexander.  This is a thinly veiled Batman and Robin slashfic.  It wasn’t until the end that I began to wonder if it was the dark knight and his boy wonder — and the reference to superheroes on the back cover seems to confirm my suspicion (as no other stories involved superheroes).  Retrospectively, this adds a new level of heat to “Night Visit.”  Picturing Batman and Robin having a wild night creates some very erotic imagery and Alexander pulls it off well.

The stories that were personal low points for me in this anthology were by no means weak stories — they featured body types I do not particularly find attractive or sexual practices that do not tend to excite me.  Despite this, I still enjoyed the “weaker” stories, so it doesn’t feel appropriate to even label them as “weak” since they weren’t weak, they just didn’t turn my crank.

I read this anthology with a bit more of a critical eye than I have with anthologies in the past, as I am preparing for a workshop in August in which I will be discussing how to write a sex scene.  As part of my research, I have read a heterosexual anthology, as well as a lesbian one.  I’ve found the differences between the three types to be quite interesting — and while having read only one anthology each of heterosexual and lesbian erotica is hardly a representative sample, I think it still does give a general idea of what that branch of the erotica tree is like.

Gay erotica seems to revel in the pornographic fantasy — but more toward the dark and gritty, the anonymous and nameless.  While heterosexual erotica also seems to revel in pornographic fantasies, they tend to be cleaner and less often of the 100% anonymous type.  Lesbian erotica, from the book I read, tended to more often feature realistic characters (as in, they’re like people you know) and generally in safer locations, such as the house or apartment.  Gay erotica is often set in bathhouses, back alleys, and outdoors in relatively public places.  One story in this anthology, in particular, seemed to imply unprotected sex with someone that has an STD of some sort — and this was eroticized, something which I’ve not seen paralleled in the hetero or lesbian stories.  (Though, to be fair, I can’t recall ever reading of unsafe STD sex in gay erotica either.)  In the next couple weeks, I’ll put together a longer post that explores the differences and similarities between these three types of erotica… I’ve still got some thoughts forming…

Back to the review: Best Gay Erotica 2013 was a fun read, full of steamy and throbbing tales.  The collection has a nice variety of not only body types and fantasies, but also of writing styles and approaches.  Some are a bit more experimental, such as “Other Residences, Other Neighbourhoods,” as described in the blurb above.  Some take themselves seriously, whereas others, like “Fight Cub,” take themselves with a wink and a nod.  This series is definitely worth the annual read.

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Book Review: Heat Wave

Heat Wave

Alison Tyler (Editor)

Alison Tyler, acclaimed editor of Afternoon DelightFrenzy andSlave to Love, gathers an irresistible, explicit collection of erotica guaranteed to spark fire in any relationship. Heat Wave is summer sex, bursting with swimsuits, sprinklers and ripe strawberries. Raise your temperature with Matthew I. Jackson’s “Spectators,” in which a couple dining on their veranda is serenaded by an unknown woman’s cries of passion. Get steamy with Tom Piccirilli’s “Double-Click to Enter,” the story of a work-at-home writer who confirms his suspicions about what his blonde neighbor does with her web cam. And Simone Harlowe’s “Bikini” will bring a flush to your face when a buisnesswoman nervously shops for swimwear and finds a tall, insistent stranger at her dressing room door. The very definition of hot erotica, Heat Wave calls for an icy drink, fresh towels and a fan in an open window.

Admittedly, being a gay man who writes gay erotic romance, reading a heterosexual erotica book might not have been the best idea.

Here’s the scoop: at a conference I’m attending in August, I’ll be leading a workshop on how to write a dirty scene.  My hope is to reach the sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, and other genre writers in attendance who are looking to add a steamy scene to their work.  (There’s a strong romance presence at this convention, but I figure they already know how to write smut.)  However, given my experience in writing (and life) involves two dudes and no chicks, I thought it’d be wise to read up on some straight and lesbian sex to add to my gay experience.

This the first of my research (tonight I start reading a lesbian anthology).  It was… interesting.

Vaginas mystify me.  I thought I knew them, but clearly, I do not.

Some of these stories were quite hot, particularly “Double-Click to Enter,” which is described in the blurb above.  A handful were, I felt anyway, rather average.  There was one that had a truly bizarre scene involving food sex with seafood (and the man, when licking out his woman, enjoyed discerning the taste of seafood from the taste of his wife).

I find it interesting how sex was portrayed in a straight anthology versus a gay anthology.  I think it has to do with who’s writing it and who the target demographic is.  Straight erotica is aimed at both genders but is very likely read mostly by women.  Gay erotica is aimed at men and I think very likely read mostly by men (though I know women read it too).  (I think gay erotic romance is read largely by women, but I think gay erotica is less so.)

Straight erotica seems to really graphically and erotically describe the foreplay, but when the sex happens, the narrative seems to often shift to emotions, connection, and heat.  Not much is described about the physicality of it — the movements, the friction, the rush of orgasm.  Whereas in gay erotica, the foreplay is less important — it often dives right to sex and is explicit and graphic throughout the whole thing, describing stretching, friction, (sometimes) pain, and the rush of orgasm.  Both approaches have their merits.  I wonder if it truly speaks to what the target demographic wants.  Does the male readership want porn-like erotica that is heavy on the explicitness of sex?  And does the female readership want erotic fiction that is based largely on the instant connection and the heat of foreplay, but glosses over the actual act of sex?

I will continue to read and research.

This anthology, though, was a rather interesting introduction to the world of heterosexual sex.  As an anthology, it is a solid collection full of steamy stories.


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