Fairy Tale Lust: Erotic Fantasies for Women
Edited by Kristina Wright
Cleis Press, 2010
Once upon a time, a lovely author of sexy stories put out a call for erotic fairly tales. She worried whether anyone would take up her challenge. After all, there had been many X-rated retellings of Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin and Rapunzel in the past. Perhaps the well of inspiration had run dry.
Fortunately for connoisseurs of erotic fiction, her fears were unfounded. Fairy Tale Lust is a treasure chest of delights, each tale a unique gem. There are really no boring or poorly written stories in this anthology, which is a marvel in itself. From Shanna Germain's lyrical and haunting “Her Hair is a Net, Woven” to Jeremy Edward's hilarious “Gildi and the Unwieldy, Ineffectual Committee of Bears”, each story offers a different voice and a different vision. Some, like Andrea Dale's “How the Mermaid Got Her Tail Back” or Louisa Harte's “Ellie and the Shoemaker”, offer contemporary settings and modern characters. Others, such as “Three Times” by Justine Elyot and “The Pub Owner's Daughter” by Alegra Verde, unfold in the traditional fairy tale world of Germanic villages and royal castles, populated by canny maids and brave lads out to make their fortunes (and get off along the way).
Some of the stories particularly stand out for their originality. In Craig Sorensen's “Ducking”, a modern-day ugly duckling discovers that sexiness starts from within. I was impressed that a male could write such an accurate account of feminine self-doubt. “Sleep Tight”, by Janine Ashbless, offers a visceral first person account by the hapless landscaper penetrating Sleeping Beauty's palisade of thorns. The final twist is shocking and yet, in retrospect, feels inevitable. Kristina Wright's own contribution, “In the Dark Woods” explores the transforming power of obsessive, forbidden desire. It is less of a fairy story than many of the tales in this volume, though it hums with dark magic. “Gingerbread Man” by Carol Hassler, is almost a horror story, despite its eventual happy ending.
Traditional fairy tales did not always end well. While most of the stories in this collection conclude with the characters well-matched and well-fucked, the conclusions in Janine Ashbless', Kristina Wright's and Shanna Germain's contributions are all threaded with darkness. Alana Noël Voth's “Big Bad Wolf (An Excerpt)” foreshadows pain and loss as well as pleasure. And Charlotte Stein's haunting and erotic “The Return” brims with anxiety, despite the heroine's delirious satisfaction with her new lover:
“Of course Roland never spoke about him at all. Families like his don't talk about bad eggs, who do things like steal and murder and inveigle their way into your secret heart, the secret heart that wants dark instead of light, danger instead of boredom.”
All in all, Fairy Tale Lust is an exceptional collection. My one complaint is the ridiculous subtitle: “Erotic Fantasies for Women”. There's nothing at all in this book that particularly qualifies it as “women's fiction”. In fact, a woman reader looking for “safe” erotica might find some of the tales in this book rather alarming.
So I'd recommend that you just ignore this clumsy marketing attempt. Get yourself a copy of Fairy Tale Lust and read happily ever after.