Black Lace Books, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-352-34132-7
Fantasy Erotica, 2007
Love on the Dark Side is marketed as romantic erotica, but that’s quite a bit of false advertising there. The stories here adopt a more tolerant stance toward infidelity than a typical work of the romance genre would allow, for one, and many of these stories do not even have a happily ever after. It will be more accurate to describe this anthology as a collection of stories about sexual encounters instead of romantic love.
This anthology confuses me a bit as well. This is supposed to be a naughty anthology, but care has been taken to “keep the explicit anatomical stuff to an absolute minimum”. Therefore, this one isn’t as steamy as I’d expect. Sure, there are brief references to the man’s “big cock” and some sexual positions, but things to be rather… vanilla. Since the stories are generally too short to make much of an impact on me, story-wise, I don’t know what this anthology exists for. Fun stuff for genteel English ladies who only want their tea break reading to be a little naughty, I’d imagine.
Some stories aren’t bad. Kristina Lloyd’s An Earthquake in Leamingston Spa, where an earthquake opens some kind of time portal to allow the married heroine to meet a man from the past and embark on an affair with him, is actually a well-written and enjoyable tale of a woman’s late sexual awakening. Janine Ashbless’s Sun Seeking is easily the hottest story in this collection for a good reason, although story-wise this one is just average. The rest of the stories are short tales of paranormal encounters with lovers of the spooky kind – they are either pretty much of the “Ooh, I see a werewolf/merman/Loch Ness Monster and quickly drop my knickers!” story (okay, maybe not the Loch Ness Monster) or about a couple having sex under less than ordinary circumstances due to the proximity to the TV (don’t ask). This is not an anthology for you if you’re the kind of person who wonders aloud, “Wait, what kind of crazy woman will have sex with a fish man without a second thought?”
Love on the Dark Side at the end of the day isn’t very lovey-dovey or dark at all, just a collection of short stories that I’d have a hard time remembering after a few days. Maybe the next time around, if the plot is going to be in short supply, we should throw in as much explicit anatomical stuff as possible. Why else would we read erotica, after all?