Ellora’s Cave, $9.99, ISBN 1-84360-812-X
Mixed Genre Erotica, 2004
One of the best things to come from the success of independent publishers like Ellora’s Cave is the resurgence of the romantic erotica genre. Without these books and those Secrets anthologies by Red Sage Publication, we’ll all have to make do with faux-erotic “virgin and FBI” stories courtesy of Harlequin Blaze and their longer counterparts Brava. For readers looking for erotic stories that go beyond the whole vanilla sex thing, publishers like Ellora’s Cave has a variety of bondage gears, kinky positions, and real down and dirty sex in their bordello of love.
The downside of this, as Ellora’s Cavemen: Tales from the Temple I demonstrates, is that there is a numbing sameness to the whole werewolf/alien/vampire paranormal romantica stories prevalent in the genre. I can only take so much of the whole macho-male/destiny/bond/mate schtick, after all. What happened to sex with an ordinary guy, or have we reached a stage where we can’t be satisfied unless the lover in question is a blood-sucking lycanthropic psychic broody alpha android humanoid from Planet X with a ten-inch willy?
Sahara Kelly’s Joshua 4.0 is set in the present day, but the heroine Andrea Thompson is interested in the hard drive of Joshua, a virtual lover. Joshua can give multiple orgasms until sparks shoot out of Andy’s ears, but he’s not real. Or is he? I think I’ve seen this particular plot – minus the sex, of course – in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Still, Andy has a nice sense of humor and the sex is pretty spicy. At least Joshua can give some decent post-coital bedside chat, which is more than what one can say for a vibrator or a blow-up doll, I guess.
Kate Douglas’s futuristic story Barbarian is as cheesy as I expected. Bryony – sounds like a method of artificial fertilization, doesn’t it? – is held captive by Jake because once, she mistook him for a slave trader that had done bad things to Bryony’s sister (whose name, contrary to popular belief, is not Ovary) and held him captive. Now it’s payback and bondage time, bwahahaha! I could always use some kinky bondage in my stories but Barbarian is dripping with cheese, corny dialogues, and campy domination elements. I find this story more lurid in a heh-heh-heh manner than actually erotic.
Lani Aames’s Manimal is a contemporary werewolf story. I’m sure readers know the gist by now: some woman stays in an isolated cabin in the woods and feels that something or somebody is watching her, this something turns out to be a werewolf hottie, lots of mate/need/hunger yammering flying all over the place, the usual. Kelsey Locke, the heroine, unfortunately comes with too-typical bad ex-boyfriend baggages that are too overused to be anything but contrived. This one isn’t anything special and is in fact the most forgettable novella in this anthology.
Ravyn Wilde presents A.D. 2203: Adam and Eve, a rather over-the-top futuristic werewolf story where during one night when the moon is full (the Lupine moon), werewolves will start hunting for their mates (apparently set in their genes) and poor Eve Longtree forgets to literally barricade the doors when her genetically-destined mate Adam Greyclan comes a-calling. That will teach her for being a workaholic. Apart from pausing to wonder what it’d be like if the likes of Hugh Jackman are genetically destined to be my mate even if I let myself go and devour carbohydrates like nobody’s business, I’m afraid I’m too busy laughing at everything about this campy story to find it as erotic as I should have.
I have high hopes for Doreen DeSalvo’s At His Mercy because it skirts close to being a story with the controversial mind-control theme. At the very least, it could have been an interesting story of female domination. Instead, as the title of the novella suggests, psychic Faith Hartley ends up playing the submissive female to skeptic Jake McIntyre’s dominant male in this contemporary bondage story. She decides to prove to him that she has real abilities worth his funding her research for, taps into his psyche, and learns of his kinky sex fantasies. The sex can get very heated up but at this point I’m overdosed on the whole man-want, man-take theme permeating every single story here and this story needs to be a little different if it wants to stand out in my memory. It isn’t, so it doesn’t.
Finally, Lora Leigh offers yet another futuristic story in Time-share: Amelia’s Journey. Scientist Amelia Collins is stranded in Venus with Commander Saber Madison and Major Mike Tennison when they learn that some major case of pheromones are being released all over the place. One woman, two men. You join the dots. Unfortunately, once I’ve stopped laughing at the men’s names (Saber Madison, my goodness!), the author introduces some primitive “must get her pregnant” penis-measuring contest between the two men and I start laughing all over again. Um, funny, yes, erotic, no, alas. Out of curiosity, is a man impregnating a woman a popular fantasy among female erotica readers? I always assume that men are the ones who enjoy the “ultimate domination” fantasy that the biological act of impregnation affords. Am I the only one who finds the whole “knocking down the door to knock her up” premise more hilarious than erotic?
Maybe it’s just me, but while I enjoy paranormal erotic romances, I find many of the paranormal elements in this anthology more amusing than arousing. The males are a little too dominant, the females are having orgasms that are too powerful, the premise reminds me of silly throwaway plots in adult films designed just to get everybody naked – in short, the stories in Ellora’s Cavemen: Tales from the Temple I have a too-exaggerated quality to them that make them come off like cartoons instead of earthy, sensual erotic stories. This won’t be so bad if taken in small chunks (ahem) but there is a sameness to the alpha-dominance themes running through these stories that soon dampen any enthusiasm I have for the campier elements of the stories. When there are so many stories featuring the same type of heroes – be they aliens, werewolves, or human – dominating or seducing the heroines using the same “must mate, must have, must want, must must must” shtick, romantic erotica – at least in this anthology – is fast turning into a tired formula.