Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review Tuesday: First by Cheyenne Blue

First: Sensual Lesbian Stories of New Beginnings
Edited by Cheyenne Blue
LadyLit Publishing, 2015

Let me begin by admitting I’m biased. Ideally, a reviewer should approach her task with no preconceived opinions about a book (although I suspect that’s rare in practice), but when I pick up a book with Cheyenne Blue’s name on the cover, I expect it to be great. Given my prior experience with Cheyenne’s work, I can’t help myself. Of course, this sort of bias can be a double-edged sword. If the book turns out to be less than stellar, I might subject it to harsher criticism than a random volume from an unfamiliar author or editor.

In the case of First, I’m pleased to report that my expectations were more than satisfied. This impressively diverse collection rings all sorts of changes on the theme of first times and new beginnings. In “The Opposite of Darkness” by Harper Bliss, a formerly blind woman sees her long-time lover for the first time. Jeremy Edwards’s “The Talkies” chronicles a nervous silent film star moving into the new world of voice. Annabeth Leong’s “Roses and Thorns” portrays a female boxer’s first public fight, a contest that alters the emotional balance in her relationship with her butch partner. Rosie Bower’s gorgeously lyrical “Sea” depicts a woman’s first encounter with the ocean, in all its vast mystery. In “Whole Again”, Brenda Murphy takes readers into the cynical heart of a butch amputee veteran, a short order cook in a greasy spoon diner who lets down her guard just enough to take a lover for the first time since her leg was blown off.

New beginnings shine in Emily Byrne’s gritty and humorous “Repossession”. A woman divorcing from her wife is forced to deal with the bossy female bank officer who’s come to claim their jointly-owned house. Ms. Lydia Chang just happens to be an old fling, which makes the whole transition both harder and hotter.

Cheyenne Blue’s wonderful contribution, “Amelia”, imagines the famous aviator crash landing on a remote island in the Pacific, where she embarks on a new life with a fellow castaway. In this tale, the lush jungles and crystal lagoons of Amelia’s haven mirror the simple beauty of her connection with the supple, coffee-skinned Lae.

Jillian Boyd’s “Ghost of She” vividly portrays the reality of a broken heart, as well as the sweet, subtle process of its healing, while in Ivy Newman’s “The First Peonies”, the protagonist finally risks something more than a one night stand.

In Sacchi Green’s “Pulling”, the newness is understated. The heroine, a cowgirl over six feet tall, is drawn to a femme carny. This story is darn near perfect, from its razor-sharp characterization to its spot-on dialogue:

Her back was turned while she unclipped balloon fragments from the backboard. She’d shot me a little smile when I arrived, but there was something tentative about it, wary. Or maybe even nervous. I kind of liked the idea of making her nervous.

So what does it take,” I asked, pressing right up against her ass and putting my hands on her hips, “for a big old farm girl to distract you?”

She turned right around into my arms and did a slow grind against me. “It’s been a while since I got that lucky,” she said against my chin. “What do you generally have in mind when you pick up slutty carnival hucksters?”

Once I pick ‘em up,” I said, digging my hands into her round
asscheeks and raising her so that her breasts rested above mine, “my mind doesn’t have all that much to do with it.” Which was pretty much true. “But I’ve been known to offer to buy a girl dinner. To keep her strength up.”

You can tell the sparks are going to fly. (And believe me, they do!)

Despite all this variety, it happens that two of my favorite stories focus on first-time lesbian experiences. The tales could hardly be more different. In “Before the Bus Comes”, Tamsin Flowers serves up a clever, tongue-in-cheek treatment of a woman determined to experience the F/F intimacy she’s always fantasized aboutbecause you never know when you’re going to get run over by a bus. In contrast, Vanessa de Sade’s “That Summer” offers a dreamy recollection of a long-gone summer when the precocious, bookish narrator first discovered she loved women. The story glows from within, a much-polished jewel gleaming in the sunlight of memory.

Let me say, by the way, that the literary quality of the stories in First in no way detracts from their erotic charge. Some stories are raw. Some are tender. Some are playful. Every one celebrates the succulent richness of female flesh in all its lush variety. In fact, this confluence of craft and heat would make this collection the perfect gift for someone new to lesbian eroticaa delicious first taste of all the flavors the genre can offer.

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