Saturday, August 24, 2013

8 Heart Review: Red Velvet and Absinthe edited by Mitzi Szereto

Red Velvet and Absinthe
edited by Mitzi Szereto

Page Count: 220

Release Date: September 6th, 2011
Publisher: Cleis Press
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Cleis Press!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Explore Your Dark Desires

The supernatural: it evokes excited shivers, both of fear and of the sexual. Think vampires, werewolves, ghosts... darkness and decay, eerie sounds in the night, impassioned whispers teasing at the depths of sleep... Think red velvet, flickering candles, howling winds, the flavor of absinthe and blood on the tongue... But most of all, think dark desire.

Red Velvet and Absinthe explores love and lust with otherworldly partners who, by the sheer nature of their otherworldliness, evoke passion and desire far beyond that which any normal human being can inspire.

Red Velvet and Absinthe offers readers a collection of unique and original stories that conjure up the atmospheric and romantic spirit of the Gothic masters (and mistresses), but take things a bit further by adding to the brew a generous dosage of eroticism. Lie back and listen to the wind howling outside your window as you read these stories in the flickering light of a candle, the absinthe you’re sipping warming your body like the caressing touch of a lover’s fingers...


Sometimes he stares at me through the darkness with his liquid amber eyes, and I wonder what taking advantage really is. And who's doing it to whom. 

Sunlight, Moonlight by Rose de Fer: With gorgeous prose and a deeply sensual style, this untraditional werewolf love story revolves around an eccentric, but yummy, doctor and a sexually charged woman during her rebirth and transformation - 8/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Cover Him with Darkness by Janine Ashbless: An account of the seduction of the young, naïve Milja by an imprisoned fallen angel. Disturbing as it is tantalizing, this story takes place in a rustic faraway land and has biblical notes. I found it absolutely explosive, and it reads almost like a folktale - 10/10 

A Rose in the Willow Garden by Elizabeth Daniels: Apparently this was inspired by the murder ballads "Down in the Willow Garden" and "Where the Wild Roses Grow," but being unfamiliar with both, I was really lost while reading. Daniels's effect is majestic and surreal, but the supernatural summoning in this story is too confusing for me to enjoy greatly - 5/10 

The Blood Moon Kiss by Mitzi Szereto: Hot! I love the southern spunk with which Szereto writes. Daytime television's most popular hunk Talen and small-town actress Christine hook up in this surprisingly refreshing vampire tale of reincarnated love and its path to eternity. The shifting perspectives aren't clearly labeled, which is a bit disorienting, but other than that, The Blood Moon Kiss is a delight of an erotic read - 8/10 

Painted by Anna Meadows: Benjamin, a lowly groundskeeper at Mr. Lawrence's estate, loses his innocence and discovers ecstasy within the mysterious beauty of an enchanted painting. The way he completely loses himself in a seductive art's form is fascinating. The plot is kind of confusing, but the concept, lovely - 7/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Dolly by Charlotte Stein: Ohhh this one's kind of twisted, but a fantasy you can't deny: a make-believe man come to life. Sophie imagines the man of her dreams and literally creates him: a gorgeous Frankenstein. However, that's all he is: a doll. No mind of his own, and no soul... or so she thinks. Love the perceptive tone in this one, but not a fan of the choppiness. Overall Dolly is red-hot and has an amazing implication at the end. Simply mind-bending! - 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

La Belle Mort by Zander Vyne: Eliza, imprisoned in a dark cell for a crime she hasn't committed, comes face to face with her executioner, whom she just as well may be imagining. This one is a bit darker than the rest, but enjoyable in a devastating way. Grim and chilling, La Belle Mort follows an unlikely pair of lovers and highlights the keeping of faith and the promise of light after darkness - 8/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

The Persistence of Memory by Evan Mora: A passionate lesbian story to spice things up a bit. Rowan, a healer who has the power to wipe the memory of her grantees clean, falls for the vulnerable but ever-strong Lily. The concepts of soul mates and protective duty are touched upon in this story. It's emotional and will make your spine tingle, but the plot itself is nothing terribly exciting - 7/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Scratched by Ashley Lister: Vicky must deal with the transformation of her werewolf lover, Jake... even though she might be his biggest prey. The curse this storyline revolves around is great, but the actual sex scenes are just okay - 6/10 

Bitter and Intoxicating by Sharon Bidwell: Wilting artist Émile finds inspiration in the eerily alluring Vérène, which propels his greatest piece yet. I found this one rather strange and didn't "get" it for the most part, but do appreciate how it combines French mythology with the essence of abstraction and the fine line between art and pleasure - 6/10 

Tea for Two by Claire Buckingham: Not of fan of this story about Anastasia's coming-to-terms with her fallen angel husband, Gregory because it dragged on so much. The plot is messy as well, so it took me a while to comprehend, and the sex just falls flat - 4/10 

Milady's Bath by Giselle Renarde: The maid of a young, impulsive lady who lusts for a beast she seeks to tame, narrates this sensual story. The actual supernatural eroticism takes place behind closed doors, while a tender female passion takes place in front—an interesting perspective! The juxtaposition of rough werewolf sex and gentle womanly loving makes for a rich story that will make you squirm - 9/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ 

The Way Home by Carrie Williams: Darker and more sinister than the other stories, The Way Home follows the downfall of a nameless woman who finds an escape from her complicated life in a bartender whom she only knows as "Freddy." The mindless, pleasurable routine they fall into is a French paradise, but she soon discovers that this little vacation of hers won't last forever. While I'm still not exactly sure what kind of creature this story depicts, the depth and obscurity of it makes it an exemplary piece of Gothic fiction - 9/10 

The Queen by Tahira Iqbal: Upon a sudden attack in the King's court, Amelia is snatched out of her vampire King lover's arms, and forced to face the tragic aftermath, as well as the throne she inherits. The new Queen finds solace in the sexy but detached bodyguard, Landon; she soon discovers that between them, is lust... as well as bloodlust. The plot here would make a terrific novel, but it was just way too much to fit into 14 pages. Iqbal's ideas are ambitious, but The Queen moves way too fast; too much happens for a tiny story that's meant to be longer - 5/10 ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Benediction by Bonnie Dee: Micah's soul is stripped bare when he seeks redemption in the form of an angel, the gorgeous Hasdiel. She alone has the power to separate him from his sins, as well as teach him to finally forgive himself. While the tone of Benediction is ethereal—perfect for an angel story—I didn't like it that much because the plot isn't novel, and the characters are rather unmemorable 


Very diverse stories with all sorts of paranormal creatures and folklore // Intricate plots // Complex characters and relationships // Rich, seductive mood // Quality erotica


Some of the stories are hard to follow because they're so fantastical // Only a few stories were actually arousing ("Dolly," "Milady's Bath," and "The Way Home."


"Dites-moi qui vous aimez, et je vous dirai qui vous êtes," she said. "Isn't that pretty? It's French. It means 'tell me whom you love, and I'll tell you who you are.' I read it on a tombstone, once."
— from Elizabeth Daniels's A Rose in the Willow Garden


Red Velvet and Absinthe is a Cleis Press classic, with lush worlds built into every story, and sensuality that reaches supreme heights. This anthology is as good as Gothic short fiction gets: dark as night and smooth as velvet. While I didn't really connect with some individual stories, the majority of them are hauntingly seductive and gloomy in the most alluring way Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read; highly recommended (x)