As a wayfaring stranger with a love of libraries, I currently have access to three online collections, one of which has a large number of erotic romance novellas and even shorter “briefs.” A greedy reader, I’ve been plowing through them at a fast pace, because they often are disappointing as stories. However, the Berkley, SPICE and SPICE Briefs, and Avon Impulse imprints have published some enjoyable pieces and a few stunners.*
Mixed Author Anthologies
Sometimes when a publisher has three or four digital stories that fit into a particular theme, they bundle them together as anthologies. These collections can be good, because they often contain work from the better-selling authors among their digital download offerings. Here are several anthologies I can recommend, in whole or in part, that contain stories written by authors I’ve already found to be talented. (Some of the stories also can be downloaded as singles from the publisher.)
I loved three of the four multi-partner stories in Three to Tango. Lauren Dane’s “dirty/bad/wrong” is moving, sexy, briefly sad, featuring a Polynesian former NFL player, a la Troy Polamalu, with exotic, waist-length hair, a closeted bi-sexual. New and captivating. Megan Hart’s “Just For One Night” is also different…a husband sends his wife off with permission to make love with an old flame. A little twisted with a twist. “Flipping for Chelsea” by Emma Holly gives us two brothers who love the same girl. I’ll never forget the brothers’ relationship which highlights a very special kind of love. “On the Job” by Bethany Kane didn’t grab me as much as the others, though it wasn’t bad. One story contains some dominance. Two contain man-on-man action.
Men Out of Uniform features law enforcement officers bending the rules. “Soul Possession” by Maya Banks has a torturer/killer, but I tolerated that for the enjoyable tale. “Wanted” by Karin Tabke has a hunky undercover cop sent to transport a female witness with whom he has a past. Lots of danger and adventure, and some hot sex. “Taking the Heat” by Sylvia Day is a great story of a U.S. Marshall who lost his love to the witness protection program, but finds her in danger years later. As soon as he saves her, she’ll go back into witness protection and be lost to him again. The tale has a touching bittersweet tone. My only beef is that the last two stories are so similar in content.
All three stories in the Some Like It Rough anthology are enjoyable, though not particularly rough. The title story by Kate Pearce brings a man home after ten years to face jilted lovers he’d abandoned without explanation. Private Eyes by Susan Lyons features a “mousey” assistant at a detective firm going undercover as a stripper to buddy up to a suspicious woman. Much taunting and titillation to be had here. Cherry on Top by Anne Rainey refers to a woman named Cherry who is first stalked, then romantically pursued by the businessman next door to a mutually satisfying conclusion. The stories contain some D/s (with toys!) and an m/m/f menage.
I’m recommending the brand new Hot in Handcuffs based simply on the theme (erotic disobedience) and the authors: Shayla Black, Sylvia Day, & Shiloh Walker. It looks promising.
What Happens in Vegas is fun if you like Vegas stories. Though I’ve tried twice to read a novel by Jodi Lynn Copeland (Body Moves) and failed, “Hot for You” is sexy and fun (as is its sequel “Hot for It,” a separate novella). Lauren Dane’s story of a burlesque dancer being courted by a mogul has interesting characters. I admire the ability of any writer who can describe dance compellingly with words. Anya Bast’s heroine is left at the altar and uses a sexy blackjack dealer as her comfort. Really like him! Kit Tunstall’s heroine tries to steal from a casino and pays back the owner by becoming his sex slave, slightly disturbing, but well done.
What Happens in Vegas…After Dark contains prequels and sequels to the stories in the first Vegas anthology, but they all veer off into the magical, the “after dark” component. Not quite my cup of tea, but the two books together intertwine the real and the surreal. Bast’s cad had the best excuse ever for missing his wedding!
The Sex At Work Bundle isn’t great, but has some good moments. Kimberly Kaye Terry’s “Come Back to Me” is an over-the-phone domination story with a surprise twist and is worth reading. She describes a penis as “turgid,” which is overused in erotica and can make a reader roll her eyes. On the other hand, she uses “rutting,” another such word, in an amusing, clever way, so she has some promise. “Psychic Sex” by Cathleen Ross has a wholly exploitive, unlikable “heroine” (personal trainer) and a dumb premise and didn’t work for me. “This is What I Want” by Megan Hart isn’t one of her best novellas, but it’s not bad. A fantasy sex blogger’s identity is discovered by a sexy IT guy who knows her and secretly attempts to fulfill her fantasies in real life.
Naughty Bits, the first of a series of anthologies by the same name contains 15 short stories by 15 writers for Spice, most of whom I was unfamiliar with. This is an inexpensive compilation if you like short stories and some are real gems: “The Queen’s Tale” by Grace D’Otare, “The Well-Tutored Lover” by Alice Gaines, “Tokyo Rendezvous” by Jina Bacarr, “Invite Me In” by Delilah Devlin, and “Forever Yours” by Charlotte Featherstone. “Gilt & Midnight” by Megan Hart is good, as is “Letting Go” by Sarah McCarty and several more from the recommended list of single briefs below are also included (as are a couple from the slush pile).
Naughty Bits 2 may have been Spice’s way of shooting themselves in the foot. The first book has 15 stories for just under $6.50 on Amazon.com and gets good reviews (including mine). The second anthology has 9 stories for about the same price but with not-so-great reviews. The third anthology also has 9 stories (including one of my least favorite from one of my favorite authors, Megan Hart).
I’m including the click-on book cover here of Naughty Bits 2 more for Sir Walter Panther‘s entertaining and well-written review on its Amazon.com page than for the book itself. What a great reviewer who’s also an ex-military world traveler, rugby player, and dad! Plus it’s fun to read reviews of erotic romance written by men.
Spice Briefs are short (<100 pages) and shorter (<30 pages) stories, available only by download. Some are great, while others are not worth the $ .99 to $2.99 that they cost. Here are some that I enjoyed.
“Cuffing Kate” by Alison Tyler is delightful. From the 12 Shades of Surrender series, it captures almost that many shades of a shy college girl’s sexual exploration—yearning, discovery, and yes, humiliation. Funny and endearing, it’s a great find.
The Envelope Incident” by Emelia Elmwood gives us a dumped heroine who needs a pick-me-up. Her gay neighbors convince her to write her three most forbidden fantasies on a piece of paper and slip them under their door. Then they make them come true. It’s lots of fun.
The Erotique series by Susan Lyons comprises three novellas: “Carrie,” “Jillian,” and “Alex.” Erotique is the name of a sex club in this set of related stories and it’s well imagined, described in detail in Carrie, which I truly enjoyed. The second novella was a bit thin to me, but the third came back with a bang. Shades of Cougarville.
“Eye of the Storm” by Delilah Devlin continues a novel that apparently doesn’t exist about a Jamaican vacation romance and I’m annoyed that I can’t read it. However, this novella is spicy, which is something Devlin is known for. Other reviewers have panned this story because they think the sex is not truly consensual, but I interpret it differently—that the heroine knew what she was getting into and decided to return anyway. In so doing, she accepts her lover as he is and learns something about herself too.
“The Gift” by Eva Cassel is sexy, sexy, sexy…and not in a way I’ve ever read before. Gird your loins for this one…it’s a wild ride And very timely as the hiring of high-class sex workers (both male and female) has become popular not just in situation comedy and drama, but also in reality television. Highly recommended.
“Hot for It” by Jodi Lynn Copeland is a prequel to her Jack Dempsey story in the anthology What Happens In Vegas. If you like one of the novellas, you’ll enjoy the other.
“Layover“ by Megan Hart was the first D/s story I’ve read with a female top. How she handles a strong man’s submission is fascinating and sexy…no whips or chains, only words. It’s an interesting tale.
“Mirror, Mirror” by Amanda McIntyre is a story in the”wife takes lovers at the husband’s behest” theme, but with some surprises. It contained one big plot leap that could have been smoother, but it takes a fresh and enlightening look at the intersection between love and sex. Worth reading. (Included in the Naughty Bits 3 anthology also.)
“Newly Fallen,” again by Megan Hart, is a special story about a woman who’s never truly been loved. It’s a poignant and unexpected take on the miraculous, worthiness, and spiritual rituals with an Old Testament Jewish theme. It’s simply beautiful and highly recommended. (Don’t be put off by the sappy cover.)
“Silent Surrender” by Barbara J. Hancock happens at a Mexican resort where a harried professional woman is approached by a silent, handsome man. This is a lovely and hot story and even better, it moved me.
“Taken” by Lillian Feisty is another sexy story set in Las Vegas. Walker and Joe meet their friend Chloe for a night of menage, but things get a little more serious than anyone expected. This story is much less predictable than it sounds. Oh, the complications of love…
“Tonight, My Love” by Tracie Sommers begins as a Victorian-era couple trolls for a street walker in their horse-drawn carriage. The woman chooses a girl and they take her home. It’s worth reading. That’s all I’m saying.
If you like “hookup-in-hotel” stories, Anne Calhoun’s novella “What She Needs” is a sexy short tale with a twist. I’m pretty sure this story has been made into a movie or two. Available as a NOOK book, no Kindle version.
“A Toy For Two” by Jennifer Cole is the second from her Dungeon Master series and Le Club d’Esclavage. (Love that name!) She’s written quite a few of these 50- to 80-page novellas. I like the characters and the club and would buy them at .99, their recent price. (“At the Dungeon Master’s Hand and “Yes, My Mistress” are the first and third in the series.) Jennifer Cole’s dedication in the first book reads: “To my husband, my Master, who at this very moment, is tied to my bed.” Gotta love that!
“Wet” by Lauren Hawkeye. This one starts off intriguingly, gets interestingly hot, drops into disappointing, then partially mitigates that by its ending. It’s about a couple who seduces a woman at a hot springs resort and though I found it a bit disturbing, the tale has stuck in my mind to the degree that I have to recommend it.
Spice Briefs has produced a lot of single novellas, some of which are quite short. It’s really hard to do a good job in less than thirty pages and if it isn’t working by then, it’s time to give it up. These are some of the novellas I would leave in the slush pile. I’m not picking on any particular writer because even the good writers miss once in a while. Alphabetized by title:
“Caught in the Act” by Saskia Walker. Silly little ditty about a software security hottie who bangs a suspicious employee on a desk at work while hunting down a bad guy who’s stealing software from the company.
“Decent Exposure” by Lacy Danes. A gal takes masturbation and other domination instructions over a cell phone while sitting in a parking garage in her car. Despite the “danger of discovery,” this tale is both improbable and uninteresting. Plus, the woman cries “Tallyho” when she comes. I love the Brits, but puh-lease!
“For Your Pleasure” by Elisa Adams. A gal watches her sexy neighbor do himself and other women through their adjacent windows. (That’s the interesting part.) Surprise! He knew she was there all along and offers her rough sex when she least expects it. And double surprise! She discovers that she knew this hottie as a scrawny nobody in high school. From the 12 Shades of Surrender series. Don’t be fooled by the memorable series name. I read quite a few before I found a good story. (See above.)
“Kate’s Crew” by Jayne Rylon. This one is the first from her Powertools series. Unless you want to learn how five men (three straight, one mostly straight, one mostly gay) and one woman can configure themselves sexually so everyone has a good time, then this story is not worth the couple bucks it costs. The polyamorous series appears to get better as Rylon develops the characters, but I’d be happier if she’d just sell me one or two novels than six novellas each of which costs $2 to $3.
“Night Moves” by Eden Bradley. A gal with a train fetish likes to go into empty sleeping cars and get herself off against the vibrating walls. But surprise! This car has a silent occupant. Okay, he’s surfer-dude hot and cool, but the story is lame. Also from the 12 Shades of Surrender series.
“Reason Enough” by Megan Hart. I listed this previously in my favorite Megan Hart pieces because it’s the sequel to Dirty, which I liked a great deal. But after I finished it, I found that it was just too “& baby makes three” for me. There’s nothing mind-blowing about deciding to have a baby because your husband’s a good guy. Well, not for me, anyhow.
“Tithed” by Megan Hart. I also listed this as a favorite Megan Hart piece before finishing it. It’s a “magical ancestor” version of Elle from the excellent novel Dirty and explains where she got her obsession with numbers (from her numerologist and witchy forebear, Elspeth). That part is interesting as is the fact that it takes place in the “Slaughtered Lamb,” an English-style pub that appears as a sort of character in some of Hart’s best books, but the piece remains pretty thin.
Mistress series by Jenesi Ash. Okay, maybe I am picking on Ash because I liked none of the novellas in her Mistress series. The stories are about a woman who successively manipulates richer and higher-flying sugar daddies to raise her station in life. They are described as “empowering” in some of their blurbs, but I felt the protagonist had no redeeming qualities. She’s not evil enough to be interesting or worthy enough to root for. Spice has published a lot of these novellas, so somebody must like them…just not me.
You can get most of these books in digital form, download them, and have them to read in a matter of minutes. No waiting!